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The New York 
Public Library 

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VOL. II. a 

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B.C. 146 TO A.D. 1864 







The New York 
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• l*iMk<0«lM«l«H 



A.D. 716 — 1057 




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The Isaiirian Dynasty. — A.D. 716-707. 

§ I. Characteristics of Byzantine history . 

Its divisions ..... 

Extent and adnunistrative divisions of the empire 
§ 2. Reign of Leo III. (the Isaurian), a.d. 716-741 

Saracen war .... 

Si^e of Constantinople 

Circiunstances favourable to Leo's reforms 

Fables concerning Leo III. 

Military, financial, and legal reforms . 

Ecclesiastical policy . 

Rebellion in Greece 

Papal opposition to the Iconoclasts 

Physical phenomena . 
$ 3. Constantine V. (Copronymus), a.d. 741-775 

Character of Constantine V. . 

Rebellion of Artavasdos 

Saracen war .... 

Bulgarian war .... 

Internal policy of the empire . 

Policy regarding image- worship 

Ph3rsical phenomena 

Plague at Constantinople 
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§ 4. Reigns of Leo IV. (the Khazar), Constantine VI., and Irene, a.d. 
775-802 . 
Irene regent 

Restoration of image-worship 
Second Council of Nicaea 
Extinction of Byzantine authority at Rome 
Constantine VI. assumes the government 
Divorces Maria ajid marries Theodota 
Opposition of monks ...... 

Persecution of Theodore Studita .... 

Irene dethrones her son, Constantine VI. 

Policy of government during the reigns of Constantine and Irene 

Saracen war ....... 

Bulgarian war ....... 


Beigns of Nioepliorus I., Miohael I.» and Iioo V. (the 
Armenian). — A.D. 802-820. 

§ I. Family and character of Nicephorus I., a.d. 803-811 

Rebellion of Bardanes . 

Tolerant ecclesiastical policy 

Oppressive fiscal administration 

Relations with Charlemagne 

Saracen war 

Defeat of Sclavonians at Patnie 

Bulgarian war . 

Death of Nicephorus I. 
§ a. Michael I. (RhangaW), a.d. 812-813 

Religious zeal of Michael I. 

Bulgarian war . 

Defeat of Michael I. . 
§ 3. Leo V. (the Armenian), a.d. 813-820 

Policy of Leo V. 

Treacherous attack on Crumn, king of the Bidgariims 

Victory over the Bulgarians 

Affairs of Italy and Sicily 

Moderation in ecclesiastical contests 

Council of the church favourable to the Iconoclasts 

Impartial administration of justice 

Conspiracy against Leo V., and his assassination 

The Amorian Dynasty. — ^A.D. 820-867. 

§ I. Michael II. (the Stammerer), aj>. 820-829 
Birth of Michael II. . 
Rebellion of Thomas . 

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Loss of Crete and Sicily 

Ecclesiastical policy .... 

Michael's marriage and death . 
§ 2. Theophilus, a.d. 829-842 

Anecdotes concerning the emperor's love of justice 

Anecdotes concerning his marriage 

Ecclesiastical persecution 

Love of art . 

Colony on the Don .... 

Saracen war ..... 

Theophilus destroys Zapetra . 

Motassem destroys Amorium . 

Death of Theophilus .... 
§ 3. Michael III. (the Drunkard) a.d. 842-867 

R^ency of Theodora .... 

Moral and religious reaction in Byzantine society 

Restoration of image-worship . 

Rebellion of the Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus 

Saracen war ..... 

Persecution of the Paulicians . 

Personal conduct of Michael III. 

Wealth in the Byzantine treasury 

Bardas ...... 

Ignatius and Photius .... 

Origin of Papal authority in the church 

General council in 861 

Bulgarian war ..... 

Saracen war ..... 

Victory of Petronas .... 

Russians attack Constantinople 

State of the court .... 

Assassinations ..... 

Origin of the tale of the blindness of Belisarius 

Assassination of Michael III. . 









State of the Byaantine Empire during the Iconoclast Period. 

\ I. Public administration. Diplomatic and commercial relations 
Constantinople was neither a Roman nor a Greek city 
The Greek race not the dominant people in the Byzantine empire 
Circumstances which modified the despotic power of the emperors 
Extent of the empire . 
Military strength 
Loss of Italy, Sicily, and Crete 
Embassy of John the Grammarian to Bagdad . 
Commercial policy 
Wealth of the Byzantine empire and the neighbouring states 




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% 2. State of society in the Byzantine empire during the eighth and ninth 
centuries . 
Decline of civilization . 
Influence of the Greek church . 
Slavery .... 
Theological spirit of the people 
State of science and art 





Consolidation of Bysantine Iiegislation and DeapotiBm. 
A.D. 867-863. 

§ I. Reign of Basil I. (the Macedonian), a.d. 867-886 

Personal history of Basil I. . 

Ecclesiastical administration . 

Financial administration 

Legislation ..... 

Military administration 

Pauiician war ..... 

Campaigns in Asia Minor 

Saracens ravage Sicily and Italy 

Court and character of Basil I. 
§ 2. Leo VL (the Philosopher), ajd. 886-912 

Character and court of l-eo VI. 

Ecclesiastical administration . 

Legislation ..... 

Saracen wjur ..... 

Taking of Thessalonica by the Saracens 

Expedition to reconquer Crete . 

Affairs of Italy ..... 

Bulgarian war ..... 
§ 3. Alexander — Minority of Constantine VII. — Romanus I., aj). 912.944 

Reign of Alexander, A J). 912-913 

Minority of Constantine VII. (Porphyrogenitus), aj). 913-920 

Sedition of Constantine Dukas 

Byzantine army defeated by Simeon, King of the Bulgarians 






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Intrigues at Constantinople 

Romanus I. (Lecapenus) makes himself emperor, a.d. 930-944 
Conspiracies against Romanus I. 
Romanus I. dethroned by his son Stephanos 
§ 4- Constantine VIL (Porphyrogenitus), Romanus II., aj). 945-963, 
Character of Constantine VII., ajd. 945-959 
Literary works of Constantine VU. (Porphyrogenitus) 
Death of Constantine VII. 
Conspiracies during his reign . 
Pride of Byzantine court 
Internal condition of the empire 
Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus 
Saracen war 

Bulgarian war— Hungarian invasions— Italian affairs 
Character of Romanus II., a.d. 959-963 
Conquest of Crete .... 
Condition of Greece .... 





Period of Ck>nque8t and Military Qlory.— A.D. 068-1025« 



Nicephorus II. (Phokas), John I. (Zimiskes), a.d. 963-976 . 


Adminbtration of Joseph Bringas .... 

• 3«3 

Character of NicejAorus II. (Phokas), a;d. 963-969^ . 


Public administration ...... 


Saracen war . . 


Affairs in Sicily, Italy, and Bulgaria .... 


Assassination of Nicephorus H. .... 


Character of John I. (Zimiskes), a.d. 969-976 


Russian war ....... 


Republic of Cherson ...... 

• 350 

Saiacen war ....... 

. 358 

Death of John I. ...... 


Basil II. (Bulgaroktonos), a.d. 976-1025 

. 360 

Character of Basil II. ...... 


Rebellion of Bardas Skleros ^ . . . . 


RebeUion of Bardas Phokas ..... 


Wealth of private individuals ..... 


Bulgarian war ....... 


Defeat of Basil II 


Samuel, king of Bulgaria, founds the kingdom of Achrida 


Defeats of Samuel ...... 


Basil II. puts out the eyes of his prisoners . . . . 


Conquest of the kingdom of Achrida . . . . . 


Basil II. visits Athens ....... 


Conquests in Armenia ...... 


Death of Basil II 



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Period of Oonservatism and Stationary Prosperity. — 
A.D. 1026-1057. 

§ I. Constantine VIII., a.d. 1025-1038 

Condition of the empire 

Character of Constantine VIII. 

Government administered by his eunnchs 

Oppressive financial administration 

Many nobles deprived of sight . 

Marriage of Zoe with Romanos Arghyros— death of Constantine 
§ a. Reigns of the husbands and creatures of Zoe, aj). 1028-1054 

Conduct of Romanus III., 1028-1034 

Conspiracies . 

Saracen war— defeat of Romanus III. 

Exploits of Maniakes . 

Autograph of Christ taken at Eldessa 

Acquisition of Perkrin . 

Naval operations 

Death of Romanus III. 

Character of Michael IV. (the Paphlagonian), aj>. 1034^041 

John the Orphanotrophos 

Financial oppression 



Saracens attempt to surprise Edessa 

War in Sicily . 

Loss of Servia . 

Rebellion of the Sdavonians and Bulgarians . 

Energetic conduct of Michael IV., and his death 

Michael V. (the Kalaphates), a.d. 104a 

Zoe and Theodora, a.d. 1042 . 

Meeting of Zoe and Constantinos Dalassenos . 

Constantine IX. (Monomachos), aj>. 1042-1054 

Skleraina, the concubine of Constantine DC, empress 

Lavish expenditure 

Cruelty of Theodora . 

Sedition in Cyprus 

Rebellion of Maniakes . 

Rebellion of Tomikios . 

Court plots 

Servian war 

Russian war 

Patzinak war . 

War in Italy . 

Conquest of Armenia . 

Invasion of the empire by the Seljouk Turks 

Schism of the Greek and Latin churches 

Death of 2^)e and Constantine IX. 


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$ 3. Theodora and Michael VI. (Stratiotikos), a.d. 1054-105 7 
Character and administration of Theodora, aj>. i 054-1056 
Incapacity of Michael VI. ..... 

Administration transferred to the eunuchs of the imperial household 

Conspiracy of great nobles in Asia Minor 

Michael VI. dethroned ..... 

General observations ...... 



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The Contest with the Iconoclasts. a.d. 716-867, 


The Isaurian Dynasty, a.d. 71 6-797 \ 

Sect. I. — Characteristics of Byzantine History — Its Divisions 
— Extent and Administrative Divisions of the Empire. 

The institutions of Imperial Rome long thwarted the great 
law of man's existence which impels him to better his con- 
dition. Both the material and intellectual progress of society 
had been deliberately opposed by the imperial legislation. 
A spirit of conservatism persuaded the legislators of the 
Roman empire that its power could not decline, if each order 
and profession of its citizens was fixed irrevocably in the 
sphere of their own peculiar duties by hereditary succession. 
An attempt was really made to divide the population into 
castes. But the political laws which were adopted to retain 
mankind in a state of stationary prosperity by these trammels, 

^ Theophxuies (p. 327) makes the reign of Leo III. commenoe a.m. 6209, "which 
may be from September 716, but Nicephorus Patriarcha in Chrwt. Comp€nd. at the 
end of Syncellus (p. 403) makes him reign 25 years, 3 months, and 15 days, and 
as he died on the i8th June, 741, this makes his reign commence from the time 
he was proclaimed emperor by his troops in March, 716, while Theodosius HI. 
was emperor at Constantinople. Muralt. Essm de ChroHohgie Byzantint, p. 336. 


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depopulated and impoverished the empire, and threatened to 

dissolve the very elements of society. The Western Empire, 

under their operation, fell a prey to small tribes of northern 

nations ; the Eastern was so depopulated that it was on the 

eve of being repeopled by Sclavonian colonists, and conquered 

by Saracen invaders. 

The accession of Leo the Isaurian opened a new era in the 
Eastern Empire, and under his government the empire not 
only ceased to decline, but even began to regain much of its 
early vigour. Reformed modifications of the old Roman 
authority developed new energy. Great political reforms, 
and still greater changes in the condition of the people, mark 
the eighth century as an epoch of transition, though the im- 
proved condition of the mass of the population is in some 
d^ree concealed by the prominence given to the disputes 
concerning image-worship in the records of this period. But 
the increased strength of the empire, and the energy infused 
into the administration, are forcibly displayed by the fact, 
that the Byzantine armies b^an from this time to oppose 
a firm barrier to the progress of the invaders of the empire. 

When Leo III. was proclaimed Emperor, it seemed as if na 
human power could save Constantinople from falling as Rome 
had fallen. The Saracens considered the sovereignty of every 
land, in which any remains of Roman civilization survived, as 
within their grasp. Leo, an Isaurian, and consequently a 
foreigner, ascended the throne of Constantine, and arrested 
the victorious career of the Mohammedans. He then re- 
organized the whole administration so completely in accord- 
ance with the new exigencies of Eastern society, that the 
reformed empire outlived for many centuries every govern- 
ment contemporary with its establishment. 

The Eastern Roman Empire, thus reformed, is called by 
modem historians the Byzantine Empire; and the term is 
well devised to mark the changes effected in the government, 
after the extinction of the last traces of the military monarchy 
of ancient Rome. The social condition of the inhabitants of 
the Eastern Empire had already undergone a considerable 
change during the century which elapsed from the accession 
of Heraclius to that of Leo, from the influence of causes to be 
noticed in the following pages; and this change in society- 
created a new phase in the Roman empire. The gradual 

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Aj». 716-797.] 

progress of this change has led some writers to date the com- 
mencement of the Byzantine Empire as early as the reigns of 
Zeno and Anastasius, and others to descend so late as the 
times of Maurice and HeracHus^. But as the Byzantine 
Empire was only a continuation of the Roman government 
under a reformed system, it seems most correct to date its 
commencement from the period when the new social and 
political modifications produced a visible effect on the fate 
of the Eastern Empire. This period is marked by the acces- 
sion of Leo the Isaurian. 

The administrative system adopted by Constantine con- 
tinued in operation, though subjected to frequent reforms, 
until Constantinople was stormed by the Crusaders, and the 
Greek church enslaved by papal domination. The General 
Council of Nicaea, and the dedication of the imperial city, 
with their concomitant legislative, administrative, and judicial 
institutions, engendered a succession of political measures, 
whose direct relations were uninterrupted until terminated by 
foreign conquest. The government of Great Britain has under- 
gone greater changes during the last three centuries than that 
of the Eastern Empire during the nine centuries which elapsed 
from the foundation of Constantinople in 330, to its conquest 
in 1204. 

Yet Leo III. has strong claims to be regarded as the first 
of a new series of emperors. He was the founder of a dynasty, 
the saviour of Constantinople, and the reformer of the church 
and state. He was the first Christian sovereign who arrested 
the torrent of Mohammedan conquest ; he improved the con- 
dition of his subjects ; he attempted to purify their religion 
from the superstitious reminiscences of Hellenism, with which 
it was still debased, and to stop the development of a quasi- 
idolatry in the orthodox church. Nothing can prove more 
decidedly the right of his empire to assume a new name than 
the contrast presented by the condition of its inhabitants to 

' Clinton, Fasti Romania Introduction, p. xiii, says, * The empire of Rome, pro- 
perly so called, ends at a.d. 476,' which is the third year of Zeno. Numismatists 
place the commencement of the Byzantine empire in the reign of Anastasius I. 
Saolcy, Essai de Classification des Suites Monetaires Byzantines. Gibbon tells us, 
• Tiberius by the Arabs, and Maurice by the Italians, are distinguished as the first 
of the Greek Caesars, as the founders of a new dynasty and empire. The silent 
revolution was accomplished before the death of Heraclius/ Decline and Fall, 
c liii; vol. vii p. 38, edit. Smith. 

B % 

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that of the subjects of the preceding dynasty. Under the 
successors of HeracHus, the Roman Empire presents the 
spectacle of a declining society, and its thinly-peopled pro- 
vinces were exposed to the intrusion of foreign colonists and 
hostile invaders. But, under Leo, society offers an aspect of 
improvement and prosperity; the old population revives from 
its lethargy, and soon increases, both in number and strength, 
to such a degree as to drive back all intruders on its territories. 
In the records of human civilization, Leo the Isaurian must 
always occupy a high position, as a type of what the central 
power in a state can effect even in a declining empire. 

Before reviewing the history of Leo's reign, and recording 
his brilliant exploits, it is necessary to sketch the condition to 
which the Roman administrative system had reduced the 
empire. It would be an instructive lesson to trace the pro- 
gress of the moral and mental decline of the Greeks, from the 
age of Plato and Aristotle to the time of the sixth oecumenical 
council, in the reign of Justinian II.; for the moral evils 
nourished in Greek society degraded the nation, before the 
oppressive government of the Romans impoverished and 
depopulated Greece. When the imperial authority was fully- 
established, we easily trace the manner in which the inter- 
communication of different provinces and orders of society- 
became gradually restricted to the operations of material 
interests, and how the limitation of ideas arose from this want 
of communication, until at length civilization decayed. Good 
roads and commodious passage-boats have a more direct con- 
nection with the development of human culture, as we see it 
reflected in the works of Phidias and the writings of Sopho- 
cles, than is generally believed. Under the jealous system of 
the imperial government, the isolation of place and class 
became so complete, that even the highest members of the 
aristocracy received their ideas from the inferior domestics 
with whom they habitually associated in their own house- 
holds — not from the transitory intercourse they held with 
able and experienced men of their own class, or with philo- 
sophic and religious teachers. Nurses and slaves implanted 
their ignorant superstitions in the households where the rulers 
of the empire and the provinces were reared ; and no public 
assemblies existed, where discussion could efface such impres- 
sions. Family education became a more influential feature 

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AJ). 716-797] 

in society than public instruction ; and though family educa- 
tion, from the fourth to the seventh century, appears to have 
improved the morality of the population, it certainly increased 
superstition and limited men's understandings. Emperors, 
senators, landlords, and merchants, were alike educated under 
these influences ; and though the church and the law opened 
a more enlarged circle of ideas, from creating a deeper sense 
of responsibility, still the prejudices of early education circum- 
scribed the sense of duty more and more in each succes- 
sive generation. The military class, which was the most 
powerful in society, consisted almost entirely of mere barba- 
rians. The mental degradation, resulting from superstition, 
bigotry, and ignorance, which forms the marked social feature 
of the period between the reigns of Justinian I. and Leo III., 
brought the Eastern Empire to the state of depopulation and 
weakness that had delivered the Western a prey to small 
tribes of invaders. 

The fiscal causes of the depopulation of the Roman empire 
have been noticed in a prior volume, as well as the extent to 
which immigrants had intruded themselves on the soil of 
Greece ^ The corruption of the ancient language took place 
at the same time, and arose out of the causes which dis- 
seminated ignorance. At the accession of Leo, the disorder 
in the central administration, the anarchy in the provincial 
government, and the ravages of the Sclavonians and Saracens, 
had rendered the condition of the people intolerable. The 
Roman government seemed incapable of upholding legal 
order in society, and its extinction was r^arded as a proxi- 
mate event 2. All the provinces between the shores of the 
Adriatic and the banks of the Danube had been abandoned 
to Sclavonian tribes. Powerful colonies of Sclavonians had 
been planted by Justinian II. in Macedonia and Bithynia, in 
the rich valleys of the Strymon and the Artanes^ Greece 
was filled with pastoral and agricultural hordes of the same 
race, who became in many districts the sole cultivators of the 

• Greece under the Romans, pp. 38, 399. 

• This feeling can be traced as early as the reign of Maurice. Theophylactus 
Simocatta (p. 11) records that an angel appeared in a dream to the Emj)eror 
Tiberius II., and uttered these words : * The Lord announces to thee, O emperor, 
that in thy reign the days of anarchy shall not commence.* 

' Constant. Porphyr. De Them, lib. ii. p. 23, edit. Paris ; Theoph. 304, 305, 364 ; 
Nicephorns Patr. 44, edit Paris. 

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soil, and effaced the memory of the names of mountains and 
streams, which will be immortal in the world's literature *. 
The Bulgarians plundered all Thrace to the walls of Constan- 
tinople^. Thessalonica was repeatedly besieged by Sclavo- 
nians^ The Saracens inundated Asia Minor with their 
armies, and were preparing to extirpate Christianity in the 
East. Such was the crisis at which Leo was proclaimed 
emperor by the army, in Amorium, A.D. 716. 

Yet peculiar circumstances in the condition of the surviving 
population, and an inherent vigour in the principles of the 
Roman administration, still operated powerfully in resisting 
foreign domination. The people felt the necessity of defend- 
ing the administration of the law, and of upholding com- 
mercial intercourse. The ties of interest consequently ranged 
a large body of the inhabitants of every province round the 
central administration at this hour of difficulty. The very- 
circumstances which weakened the power of the court of 
Constantinople, conferred on the people an increase of 
authority, and enabled them to take effectual measures for 
their own defence. This new energy may be traced in the 
resistance which Ravenna and Cherson offered to the tyranny 
of Justinian II. The orthodox church, also, served as an 
additional bond of union among the people, and throughout 
the wide extent of the imperial dominions its influence 
connected the local feelings of the parish with the general 
interests of the church ?ind the empire. The misfortunes, 
which brought the state to the verge of ruin, relieved com- 
merce from much fiscal oppression and many monopolies. 
Facilities were thus given to trade, which afforded to the 
population of the towns additional sources of employment. 
The commerce of the Eastern Empire had already gained 
by the conquests of the barbarians in the West, for the 
ruling classes in the countries conquered by the Goths and 
Franks destroyed many monopolies and local privil^es ; 
and they rarely engaged in trade or accumulated capital*. 

' Constant. Porphyr. D« Thtm. ii. p. 35 ; Strabonis Epit, vol. iii. p. 386, edit. 
Coray. Marathon became Vrana; Salamis, Kiluri; Plataea, KochUj Mycene, 
Kharvati; Olympia, Miraka; and Delphi, Kastri. 

* Theoph. 320. 

» Tafel, De TTussaloniea ejusque Agro, prol. xciv. 

• This fact explains the increase in the numbers of the Jews, and their oommer- 
dal importance, in the seventh century. The conquered Romans were ba\^id to 

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Aj). 716-797.] 

The advantage of possessing a systematic administration 
of justice, enforced by a fixed legal procedure, attached 
the commercial classes and the town population to the 
person of the emperor, whose authority was considered the 
fountain of legal order and judicial impartiality. A fixed 
legislation, and an uninterrupted administration of justice, 
prevented the political anarchy that prevailed under the suc- 
cessors of Heraclius from ruining society ; while the arbitrary 
judicial power of provincial governors, in the dominions 
of the caliphs, rendered property insecure, and undermined 
national wealth. 

There was likewise another feature in the Eastern Empire 
which deserves notice. The number of towns was very 
great, and they were generally more populous than the 
political state of the country would lead us to expect. In- 
deed, to estimate the density of the urban population, in 
comparison with the extent of territory from which it appar- 
ently derived its supplies, we must compare it with the actual 
condition of Malta and Guernsey, or with the state of Lom- 
bardy and Tuscany in the middle ages. This density of 
population, joined to the great difference in the price of the 
produce of the soil in various places, afforded the Roman 
government the power of collecting from its subjects an 
amount of taxation unparalleled in modern times, except 
in Egfypt^. The whole surplus profits of society were 

their corporations by their own law, to which they clung, and almost to the trades 
of their fathers ; for the Romans were serfs of their corporations before serfdom 
was extended by their conquerors to the soil. Compare Cod, Theod. lib. x. t. 20, 
L 10, with Cod. Justin, lib. xi. t. 41 et seq^. One of the three ambassadors sent by 
Charlemagne to Haroun Al Rashid was a Jew. He was doubtless charged with 
the commercial business. 

* The peculiarities in Egypt, which enabled the government of Mehemet Ali to 
extract about two millions sterling annually from a population of two millions of 
paupers, were the following : The surplus in the produce of the country makes the 
price of the immense quantity produced in Upper Egypt very low. Government 
can, consequently, either impose a tax on the produce of the upper country equal 
to the difference of price at Siout and Alexandria, less the expense of transport, or 
it can constitute itself the sole master of the transport on the Nile, and make 
a monopoly both of the right of purchase and of freight. The expense of trans- 
port is trifUng, as the stream carries a loaded boat steadily down the river, while 
the north wind drives an empty one up against the current, almost with the regu- 
larity of a steam-engine. The Nile offers, in this manner, all the advantages of a 
railway, nature having constructed the road and supplied the locomotive power ; 
while a monopoly of their use is vested in the hands of every tyrant who rules the 
country. Mehemet Ali, not content with this, created an almost universal mono- 
poly in fiivour of his government. The whole produce of the country was pur- 
chased at a tariff price, the cultivator being only allowed to retain the means of 
peipetaating his class. The number of towns and the density of population in the 

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annually drawn into the coffers of the state, leaving the 
inhabitants only a bare sufficiency for perpetuating the race 
of tax-payers. History, indeed, shows that the agricultural 
classes, from the labourer to the landlord, were unable to 
retain possession of the savings required to replace that de- 
predation which time is constantly producing in all vested 
capital, and that their numbers gradually diminished. 

After the accession of Leo III., a new condition of society 
is soon apparent ; and though many old political evils con- 
tinued to exist, it becomes evident that a greater d^ree of 
personal liberty, as well as greater security for property, was 
henceforth guaranteed to the mass of the inhabitants of the 
empire. Indeed, no other government of which history has 
preserved the records, unless it be that of China, has secured 
equal advantages to its subjects for so long a period. The 
empires of the caliphs and of Charlemagne, though historians 
have celebrated their praises loudly, cannot, in their best 
days, compete with the administration organized by Leo 
on this point ; and both sank into ruin while the Byzantine 
empire continued to flourish in full vigour. It must be 
confessed that eminent historians present a totally different 
picture of Byzantine history to their readers. Voltaire speaks 
of it as a worthless repertory of declamation and miracles, 
disgraceful to the human mind^. Even the sagacious Gib- 
bon, after enumerating with just pride the extent of his 
labours, adds, *From these considerations, I should have 
abandoned without regret the Greek slaves and their servile 
historians, had I not reflected that the fate of the Byzantine 
monarchy is passively connected with the most splendid and 
important revolutions which have changed the state of the 
world V The views of Byzantine history unfolded in the 
following pages, are frequently in direct opposition to these 
great authorities. The defects and vices of the political 
system will be carefully noticed, but the splendid achieve- 

Byzantine empire arose from the immense amoimt of capital which ages of security 
had expended in improving the soil, and from its cultivation as garden-land with 
the spade and mattock. Both these facts are easily proved. 

* Le Pyrrhonismt de PHisioire, chap. xv. note i. With this remark* the records 
of an empire, which witnessed the rise and fall of the Caliphs and the Carlovin- 
gians, are dismissed by one who exclaimed, *J*6terai aux natiom U btmdtau de 

* Decline and Fall, chap, xlviii. vol. vi. p. 70, edit. Smith. 


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ments of the emperors, and the great merits of the judicial 
and ecclesiastical establishments, will be contrasted with their 

The history of the Byzantine empire divides itself into 
three periods, strongly marked by distinct characteristics. 

The first period commences with the reign of Leo III. in 
716, and terminates with that of Michael III. in 867. It 
comprises the whole history of the predominance of the 
Iconoclasts in the established church, and of the reaction 
which reinstated the orthodox in power. It opens with the 
efforts by which Leo and the people of the empire saved 
Roman law and Christianity from the conquering Saracens. 
It embraces a long and violent struggle between the govern- 
ment and the p.eople, the emperors seeking to increase the 
central power by annihilating every local franchise, and even 
the right of private opinion, among their subjects. The 
contest concerning image-worship, from the prevalence of 
ecclesiastical ideas, became the expression of this struggle. 
Its object was as much to consolidate the supremacy of the 
imperial authority, as to purify the practice of the church. 
The emperors wished to constitute themselves the fountains 
of ecclesiastical as conTpletely as of civil l^islation. 

The long and bloody wars of this period, and the vehement 
character of the sovereigns who filled the throne, attract the 
attention of those who love to dwell on the romantic facts of 
history. Unfortunately, the biographical sketches and in- 
dividual characters of the heroes of these ages lie concealed 
in the dullest chronicles. But the true historical feature 
of this memorable period is the aspect of a declining empire, 
saved by the moral vigour developed in society, and of 
the central authority struggling to restore national prosperity. 
Never was such a succession of able sovereigns seen following 
one another on any other throne. The stern Iconoclast, Leo 
the Isaurian, opens the line as the second founder of the 
Eastern Empire. His son, the fiery Constantine, who was 
said to prefer the odour of the stable to the perfumes of his 
palaces, replanted the Christian standards on the banks of 
the Euphrates. Irene, the beautiful Athenian, presents a 
strange combination of talent, heartlessness, and orthodoxy. 
The finance minister, Nicephorus, perishes on the field of 
battle like an old Roman. The Armenian Leo falls at 

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the altar of his private chapel, murdered as he is singing 
psalms with his deep voice, before day-dawn. Michael the 
Amorian, who stammered Greek with his native Phrygian 
accent, became the founder of an imperial dynasty, destined 
to be extinguished by a Sclavonian groom. The accom- 
plished Theophilus lived in an age of romance, both in action 
and literature. His son, Michael, the last of the Amorian 
family, was the only contemptible prince of this period, 
and he was certainly the most despicable buffoon that ever 
occupied a throne. 

The second period commences with the reign of Basil I. 
in 867, and terminates with the deposition of Michael VI. 
in 1057. During two centuries the imperial sceptre was 
retained by members of the Basilian family, or held by 
those who shared their throne as guardians or husbands. 
At this time the Byzantine empire attained its highest pitch 
of external power and internal prosperity. The Saracens 
were pursued into the plains of Syria. Antioch and Edessa 
were reunited to the empire. The Bulgarian monarchy was 
conquered, and the Danube became again the northern 
frontier. The Sclavonians in Greece were almost exter- 
minated. Byzantine commerce filled the whole Mediter- 
ranean, and legitimated the claim of the emperor of 
Constantinople to the title of Autocrat of the Mediterranean 
sea^. But the real glory of this period consists in the power 
of the law. Respect for the administration of justice pervaded 
society more generally than it had ever done at any preceding 
period of the history of the world — a fact which our greatest 
historians have overlooked, though it is all-important in the 
history of human civilization. 

The third period extends from the accession of Isaac I. 
(Comnenus) in 1057, to the conquest of the Byzantine empire 
by the Crusaders in 1204. This is the true period of the 
decline and fall of the Eastern Empire. It commenced by 
a rebellion of the great nobles of Asia, who effected an 
internal revolution in the Byzantine empire by wrenching 
the administration out of the hands of well-trained officials, 
and destroying the responsibility created by systematic 

* Constant. Porphyr. De Them. ii. p. 27 : Aid t^ rhv khroKfAropa EMfffToyra^oV' 
w6k«ut QaXaacoKparuv fi^XP*^ rw 'lipa«\iovt (rrtfKwy ical vd<7rf$ 6fAoO r^t £5< 

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procedure. A despotism supported by personal influence 
soon ruined the scientific fabric which had previously upheld 
the imperial power. The people were ground to the earth by 
a fiscal rapacity, over which the splendour of the house of 
Comnenus throws a thin veil. The wealth of the empire was 
dissipated, its prosperity destroyed, the administration of 
justice corrupted, and the central authority lost all control 
over the population, when a band of 20,000 adventurers, 
masked as crusaders, put an end to the Roman empire of the 

In the eighth and ninth centuries the Byzantine empire 
continued to embrace many nations differing from the Greeks 
in language and manners. Even in religion there was a 
strong tendency to separation, and many of the heresies 
noticed in history assumed a national character, while the 
orthodox church circumscribed itself more and more within 
the nationality of the Greeks, and forfeited its oecumenical 
characteristics. The empire still included within its limits 
Romans^ Greeks, Armenians, Isaurians, Lycaonians, Phry- 
gians, Syrians, and Gallo-Grecians. The great Thracian race, 
which had once been inferior in number only to the Indian, 
and which, in the first century of our era, had excited the 
attention of Vespasian by the extent of the territory it 
occupied, had now almost disappeared ^. Great part of the 
country formerly peopled by the Thracian race was now 
peopled by Sclavonian tribes. A diminished Greek and 
Roman population survived in the towns, and the Bulgarians, 
a Turkish tribe, ruled as the dominant race from Mount 
Haemus to the Danube. The range of Mount Haemus 
generally formed the Byzantine frontier to the north, and its 
mountain passes were guarded by imperial garrisons ^. Scla- 
vonian colonies had established themselves over all the 
European provinces, and penetrated into the Peloponnesus. 
The military government of Strymon, above the passes in the 
plain of Heraclea Sintica, was formed to prevent the country 
to the south of Mounts Orbelus and Skomius from becoming 
an independent Sclavonian state. 

* Herod, v. 3 ; Enstathius Thess. Comm. in Dionys. Periegetem, v. 323. 

• The country within Mount Haemus, called Zagora, was only ceded to the 
Bulgarians in the reign of Michael HI. Scriptores post Theoph, ; Contin. loa ; ibid. 
Symeoo Mag. 440; Cedrenus, 1. 446; ii. 541. 


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[Bk.I.Ch.I. § I. 

The provincial divisions of the Roman empire had fallen 
into oblivion. A new geographical arrangement into Themes 
appears to have been established by Heraclius, when he 
recovered the Asiatic provinces from the Persians: it was 
reorganized by Leo, and endured as long as the Byzantine 
government \ The number of themes varied at different 
periods. The Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, writing 
about the middle of the tenth century, counts sixteen in the 
Asiatic portion of the empire, and twelve in the European. 

Seven great themes are particularly prominent in Asia 
Minor 2, Optimaton, Opsikion, the Thrakesian, the Anatolic, 
the Bukellarian, the Kibyrraiot, and the Armeniac. In each 
of these a large military force was permanently maintained, 
under the command of a general of the province ; and in 
Opsikion, the Thrakesian, and the Kibyrraiot, a naval force 
was likewise stationed under its own officers. The com- 
manders of the troops were called Strategoi, those of the 
navy Drungarioi. Several subordinate territorial divisions 
existed, called Tourms, and separate military commands were 
frequently established for the defence of important passes, 
traversed by great lines of communication, called Kleisouras. 
Several of the ancient nations in Asia Minor still continued to 
preserve their national peculiarities, and this circumstance has 

* The Jerm thema was first applied to the Roman legion. The military districts, 
garrisoned by legions, were then called themata, and ultimately the word was used 
merely to indicate geographical administrative divisions. Ducange, Glossartum 
med. et inf. GraecUatis, 

* The Asiatic themes were: — i. Anaiolikon, including parts of Phrygia, Ly- 
caonia, Isauria, Pamphylia, and Pisidia. 2. The Armeniac^ including Pontus and 
Cappadocia. 3. The Thrakesian, part of Phrygia, Lydia, and Ionia. 4. Opsikion, 
Mysia, and pa'rt of Bithynia stad Phrygia. 5. Optimaton, the part of Bithynia 
towards the Bosphorus. 6. Bukellarion, Galatia. 7. Paphlagonia. 8. Chaldia, 
the country about Trebizond. 9. Mesopotamia, the trifling possessions of the 
empire on the Mesopotamian frontier. 10. Koloneia, the country between Pontus 
and Armenia Minor, through which the Lycus flows, near Neocaesarea. 11. ^ 
basteia, the second Armenia {Script, post Theoph. 112). 12. Lycandos, a theme 
formed by Leo VI. (the Wise) on the borders of Armenia. 13. The Kibyrraiot, 
Caria, Lycia, and the coast of Cilicia. 14. Cyprus. 15. Samos. 16. 7^ Aegean, 
Cappadocia is mentioned as a theme {Script, post Theoph. 112) and Charsiania 
(Genesius, 46). They had formed part of the Armeniac theme. 

The twelve European themes were: — i. Thrace. 2. Macedonia. 3. Strymom, 
4. Thessalonica. 5. Hellas. 6. Peloponnesus. 7. Cephallenia. 8. Nicopolis. 9. Dyr- 
rachium. 10. Sicily, ii. Longibardia (Calabria). 12. Cherson. The islands of 
the Archipelago, which form^ the i6th Asiatic theme, were the usual station 
of the European naval squadron, imder the conunand of a Drungarios. They are 
often called Dodekanesos, and their admiral was an officer of consideration at the 
end of the eighth century. Theoph. 383. The list of the themes given by Con- 
stantine Porphyrogenitus is traditional, not from official documents. Cyppus and 
Sicily had been conquered by the Arabs long before he wrote. 


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induced the Byzantine writers frequently to mention their 
countries as recognised geographical divisions of the empire. 

The European provinces were divided into eight continental 
and five insular or transmarine themes, until the loss of the 
exarchate of Ravenna reduced the number to twelve. Venice 
and Naples, though they acknowledged the suzerainty of the 
£astem Empire, acted generally as independent cities. Sar- 
dinia was lost about the time of Leo's accession, and the 
circumstances attending its conquest by the Saracens are 

The ecclesiastical divisions of the empire underwent fre- 
quent modifications ; but after the provinces of Epirus, Greece, 
and Sicily were withdrawn from the jurisdiction of the Pope, 
and placed under that of the Patriarch of Constantinople by 
Leo III., that patriarchate embraced the whole Byzantine 
empire. It was then divided into 5a metropolitan dioceses, 
which were subdivided into 649 suffragan bishoprics, and 
13 archbishoprics, in which the prelates were independent 
(aJToic€4>aAot), but without any siifiragans. There were, more- 
over, 34 titular archbishops^. 

Sect. II. — Reign of Leo III. {ike Isaurian), A.D. 716-7412. 

Saracen war. — Siege of Constantinople. — Circumstances ^vourable to Leo's 
reforms. — Fables concerning Leo. — Military, financial, and legal reforms. — 
Ecclesiastical policy. — Rebellion in Greece. — Papal opposition.^ Physical phe- 

When Leo was raised to the throne, the empire was threat- 
ened with immediate ruin. Six emperors had been dethroned 
within the space of twenty-one years. Of these, four perished 
by the hand of the public executioner^, one died in obscurity, 
after being deprived of sight*, and the other was only allowed 
to end his days peacefully in a monastery, because Leo felt 
the imperial sceptre firmly fixed in his own grasp*. Every 

* Compare Codinns, NotUiae Graecorum Episeopatuum, with the index to the 
first ▼olume of Le Quien, Oriens ChrisHanu$, 

• The most complete work on the history of the Iconoclast period is that of 
Sdilosser, Gesckichu dir BUdenturmenditt Kaistr, 181 2. It is a work of learning 
and original research. 

• Lectins, Tiberius III. (Apsimar), Justinian 11., Philippicus. 

* Anastasius II. • Theodosius III. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.I. §3. 

army assembled to encounter the Saracens had broken out 
into rebellion. The Bulgarians and Sclavonians wasted Europe 
up to the walls of Constantinople ; the Saracens ravaged the 
whole of Asia Minor to the shores of the Bosphorus. 

Amorium was the principal city of the theme Anatolikon^. 
The Caliph Suleiman sent his brother, Moslemah, with a 
numerous army, to complete the conquest of the Roman 
empire, which appeared to be an enterprise of no extra- 
ordinary difficulty, and Amorium was besieged by the Sara- 
cens. Leo, who commanded the Byzantine troops, required 
some time to concert the operations by which he hoped to 
raise the siege. To gain the necessary delay, he opened 
negotiations with the invaders, and, under the pretext of 
hastening the conclusion of the treaty, he visited the Saracen 
general engaged in the siege with an escort of only 500 horse. 
The Saracens were invited to suspend their attacks until the 
decision of Moslemah — ^who was at the head of another 
division of the Mohammedan army — could be known. In 
an interview which took place with the bishop and principal 
inhabitants of Amorium, relating to the proffered terms, Leo 
contrived to exhort them to continue their defence, and assured 
them of speedy succour. The besiegers, nevertheless, pressed 
forward their approaches. Leo, after his interview with the 
Amorians, proposed that the Saracen general should accom- 
pany him to the headquarters of Moslemah. The Saracen 
readily agreed to an arrangement which would enable him 
to deliver so important a hostage to the commander-in-chief. 
The wary Isaurian, who well knew that he would be closely 
watched, had made his plan of escape. On reaching a narrow 
defile, from which a cross road led to the advanced posts of 
his own army, Leo suddenly drew his sabre and attacked the 
Saracens about his person ; while his guards, who were pre- 
pared for the signal, easily opened a way through the two 
thousand hostile cavalry of the escort, and all reached the 
Byzantine camp in safety. Leo's subsequent military disposi- 
tions and diplomatic negotiations induced the enemy to raise 
the siege of Amorium, and the grateful inhabitants united 
with the army in saluting him Emperor of the Romans. But 

* Amorium was at the ruins called Hergan Kaleh. Hamilton, Researches in 
Asia Minor f i. 452 ; Leakeys Tour in Asia Minor, 86. 

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A.D. 71^741] 

in his arrangements with Moslemah, he is accused by his 
enemies of having agreed to conditions which facilitated the 
further progress of the Mohammedans, in order to secure his 
own march to Constantinople. On this march he was opposed 
by the son of Theodosius III., whom he defeated. Theodo- 
sius resigned his crown, and retired into a monastery ^ : Leo 
made his triumphal entry into the capital by the Golden 
Gate, and was crowned by the Patriarch in the church of St. 
Sophia on the :i5th of March 717. 

The position of Leo continued to be one of extreme diffi- 
culty. The Caliph Suleiman, who had seen one private 
adventurer succeed the other in quick succession on the impe- 
rial throne, deemed the moment favourable for the final 
conquest of the Christians ; and he ordered his brother 
Moslemah, whose army he reinforced, to lay siege to Con- 
stantinople. The Saracen empire had now reached its 
greatest extent. From the banks of the Jihun and the Indus 
to the shores of the Atlantic in Mauretania and Spain, the 
orders of Suleiman were implicitly obeyed. The conquest 
of Spain in the West, and of Fergana, Cashgar, and Sind in 
the East, had animated the confidence of the Mohammedans 
to such a degree that no enterprise appeared difficult. The 
army Moslemah led against Constantinople was the best- 
appointed that had ever been assembled by the followers of 
Mahomet to attack the Christians : it consisted of eighty 
thousand warriors. The caliph announced his intention of 
taking the field in person with additional forces, should the 
capital of the Christians offer a protracted resistance to the 
arms of Islam. The whole expedition is said to have em- 
ployed one hundred and eighty thousand men; and the 
number does not appear to be greatly exaggerated, if it be 
supposed to include the sailors of the fleet, and the reinforce- 
ments which reached the camp before Constantinople ^. 

Moslemah, after capturing Pergamos, marched to Abydos, 

* Theodosius ended his life at Ephesus. where he was buried in the church of 
St. Philip. He ordered that his tombstone should bear no inscription but the 
word TTIEIA— • Health.' 

* Compare Const. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. c. ai, p. 74, with Weil, Geschiehie der 
Chcdifen^ i. 566, 571, note^ and Price, Mahommedan Empire, i. 518. These numbers 
enable us to estimate the credit due to the Western chronicles concerning the 
plundering expedition of Abd-el-Rahman into France, which was defeated by 
Charles Martel. Paulus Diaconus (lib. vi. c. 47) says that three hundred thousand 
Saracens perished during the siege of Constantinople. 

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[Bk.l.Ch.1. §2. 

where he was joined by the Saracen fleet. He then trans- 
ported his army across the Hellespont, and, marching along 
the shore of the Propontis, invested Leo in his capital both by 
land and sea. The strong walls of Constantinople and the 
engines of defence with which Roman and Greek art had 
covered the ramparts, directed by the skill of the Byzantine 
engineers, rendered eyery attempt to carry the place by assault 
hopeless, so that the Saracens were compelled to trust to the 
eff*ect of a strict blockade for gaining possession of the city. 
They surrounded their camp with a deep ditch, and strength- 
ened it with a strong dyke. Moslemah then sent out large 
detachments to collect forage and destroy the provisions, 
which might otherwise find their way into the besieged city. 
The presence of an active enemy and a populous city required 
constant vigilance on the part of a great portion of his land 

The Saracen fleet consisted of eighteen hundred vessels of 
war and transports. In order to form the blockade, it was 
divided into two squadrons : one was stationed on the Asiatic 
coast, in the ports of Eutropius^ and Anthimus, to prevent 
supplies arriving from the Archipelago; the other occupied 
the bay oii the European shore above the point of Galata, in 
order to cut off all communication with the Black Sea and 
the cities of Cherson and Trebizond. The first naval engage- 
ment took place as the fleet was taking up its position within 
the Bosphorus. The current, rendered impetuous by a change 
of wind, threw the heavy ships and transports into confusion. 
The besieged directed some fireships against the crowded 
vessels, and succeeded in burning several, and driving others 
on shore under the walls of Constantinople. The Saracen 
admiral, Suleiman, confident in the number of his remaining 
ships of war, resolved to avenge his partial defeat by a com- 
plete victory. He placed one hundred chosen Arabs, in 
complete armour, in each of his best vessels, and, advancing 
to the walls of Constantinople, made a vigorous attempt to 
enter the place by assault, as it was entered long after by 
Doge Dandolo. Leo was well prepared to repulse the attack, 
and, under his experienced guidance, the Arabs were com- 
pletely defeated. A number of the Saracen ships were 

^ Mondi Bumou. 

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AJ>. 716-741.] 

burned by the Greek fire which the besieged launched from 
their walls ^. After this defeat, Suleiman withdrew the Euro- 
pean squadron of his fleet into the Sosthenian bay. 

The besi^ers encamped before Constantinople on the 15th 
August 717. The Caliph Suleiman died before he was able 
to send any reinforcements to his brother. The winter proved 
unusually severe. The country all round Constantinople 
remained covered with deep snow for many weeks 2. The 
greater part of the horses and camels in the camp of Moslemah 
perished; numbers of the best soldiers, accustomed to the 
mild winters of Syria, died from having neglected to take the 
requisite precautions against the cold of a northern climate. 
The difficulty of procuring food ruined the discipline of the 
troops. These misfortunes were increased by the untimely 
death of the admiral, Suleiman. In the mean time, Leo and 
the inhabitants of Constantinople, having made the necessary 
preparations for a long siege, passed the winter in security. 
A fleet, fitted out at Alexandria, brought supplies to Mos- 
lemah in spring. Four hundred transports, escorted by men- 
of-war, sailed past Constantinople, and, entering the Bos- 
phorus, took up their station at Kalos Agros^. Another 
fleet, almost equally numerous, arrived soon after from Africa, 
and anchored in the bays on the Bithynian coast*. These 
positions rendered the current a protection against the fire- 
ships of the garrison of Constantinople. The crews of the 
new transports were in great part composed of Christians, 
and the weak condition of Moslemah*s army filled them with 
fear. Many conspired to desert. Seizing the boats of their 
respective vessels during the night, numbers escaped to 
Constantinople, where they informed the emperor of the exact 
disposition of the whole Saracen force. Leo lost no time in 

* On the subject of Greek fire, see Rdnaud et Fav^, Du Feu Gregois^ chap, iii., 
ParU, 1845 ; and I^aravey, Mhnoire sur la Dieouvertt tris-aneienne en Asie de la 
Poudre d Canon et des Armes a Feu, Paris, 1850. The efficacity of Greek fire arose 
frcnn the drcumstance of the combatants being compelled to bring large masses 
into closer Tidnity and more direct collision than in modem tactics. 

* Theophanes (332) and Nicephorus Patr (35), with the ordinary love of the 
nanrelloas, say the snow covered the ground for a hundred days. 

* Bayuk-der^, and not a place in Bithynia, as Le Beau {Histoire du Bas-Empire, 
xiL 115) and Schlosser {Ge^chickte der bilderstiirmenden Kaiser, 151) infer from 
Nioei^ Pat. 35. See Ducange. Const, Christ. 177; and Gyllius, De Bospk, Thrac, 
H. chap, xviii. p. 301. 

* Theophanes (333) says this fleet consisted of 360 transports. It anchored at 
SaUyros, Bryas, a^ Kartalimeo. 

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taking advantage of the enemy's embarrassments. Fireships 
were sent with a favourable wind among the transports, while 
ships of war, furnished with engines for throwing Greek fire, 
increased the confusion. This bold attack was successful, and 
a part of the naval force of the Saracens was destroyed. 
Some ships fell a prey to the flames, some were driven on 
shore, and some were captured by the Byzantine squadron. 
The blockade was now at an end ; Moslemah's troops were 
dying from want, while the besieged were living in plenty; 
but the Saracen obstinately persisted in maintaining pos- 
session of his camp in Europe. It was not until his foraging 
parties were repeatedly cut off", and all the beasts of burden 
were consumed as food, that he consented to allow the 
standard of the Prophet to retreat before the Christians. 
The remains of his army were embarked in the relics of the 
fleet, and on the 15th of August 718, Moslemah raised the 
siege, after ruining one of the finest armies the Saracens ever 
assembled, by obstinately persisting in a hopeless undertaking*. 
The troops were landed at Proconnesus, and marched back 
to Damascus, through Asia Minor ; but the fleet encountered 
a violent storm in passing through the Archipelago. The 
dispersed ships were pursued by the Greeks of the islands, 
and so many were lost or captured that only five of the 
Syrian squadron returned home. 

Few military details concerning Leo*s defence of Constan- 
tinople have been preserved, but there can be no doubt that 
it was one of the most brilliant exploits of a warlike age. 
The Byzantine army was superior to every other in the art of 
defending fortresses. The Roman arsenals, in their best days, 
could probably have supplied no scientific or mechanical 
contrivance unknown to the corps of engineers of Leo's army, 
for we must recollect that the education, discipline, and prac- 
tice of these engineers had been perpetuated in uninterrupted 
succession from the times of Trajan and Constantine. We 
are not to estimate the decline of mechanical science by the 
degradation of art, nor by the decay of military power in the 
field ^. The depopulation of Europe rendered soldiers rare 

* Theoph. 334. Nicephonis Pat. (35), however, says the siege lasted thirteen 
months. The Mohammedan accounts report, that of the one hundred and eighty 
thousand men who composed the expedition, only thirty thousand returned. 

* It was in the time of Constantius, a.d. 35 ;» that the largest obelisk at Rome 

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AJ>. 7 16-741.] 

and dear, and a considerable part of the Byzantine armies 
was composed of foreign mercenaries. The army of Leo, 
though far inferior in number to that of Moslemah, was its equal 
in discipline and military skill ; while the walls of Constan- 
tinople were garnished with engines from the ancient arsenals 
of the city, far exceeding in power and number any with 
which the Arabs had been in the habit of contending. The 
vanity of Gallic writers has magnified the success of Charles 
Martel over a plundering expedition of the Spanish Arabs 
into a marvellous victory, and attributed the deliverance of 
Europe from the Saracen yoke to the valour of the Franks. 
But it was the defeat of the great army of the Saracens before 
Constantinople by Leo IIL which first arrested the torrent of 
Mohammedan conquest, although Europe refuses her gratitude 
to the iconoclast hero who averted the greatest religious, 
political, and ethnological revolution with which she has ever 
been threatened. A veil has been thrown over the talents 
and courage of Leo, who though just seated on the imperial 
throne, defeated the long-planned schemes of conquest of the 
caliphs Welid and Suleiman. It is unfortunate that we have 
no Isaurian literature. 

The catastrophe of Moslemah's army, and the state of the 
caliphate during the reigns of Omar IL and Yesid II., re- 
lieved the empire from all immediate danger, and Leo was 
enabled to pursue his schemes for reorganizing the army and 
defending his dominions against future invasions. The war 
was languidly carried on for some years, and the Saracens 
were gradually expelled from most of their conquests beyond 
Mount Taurus. In the year 7a6, Leo was embarrassed by 
seditions and rebellions, caused by his decrees against image- 
worship. Hescham seized the opportunity, and sent two 
powerful armies to invade the empire. Caesarea was taken 
by Moslemah ; while another army, under Moawyah, pushing 
forward, laid siege to Nicaea. Leo was well pleased to see 
the Saracens consume their resources in attacking a distant 
fortress ; but though they were repulsed before Nicaea, they 

was transported from Alexandria. It stands at St. John Lateran, and is said to 
weigh 445 tons. (?) Sir Gardner Wilkinson makes the great obelisk at Kamak 
weigh less than three hundred tons. Modem Egypt and Thebes^ ii. 145. [Set 
Ammianus Marcellinus (xvii. 4), who gives an account of the process of trans- 
porting this obelisk from Heliopolis to Alexandria, and from thence to Rome, and 
of erecting it there. Ed.] 

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retreated without serious loss, carrying off immense plunder. 
The plundering excursions of the Arabs were frequently 
renewed by land and sea. In one of these expeditions, the 
celebrated Sid-al-Battal carried off an individual who was set 
up by the Saracens as a pretender to the Byzantine throne, 
under the pretext that he was Tiberius, the son of Justinian II. 
Two sons of the caliph appeared more than once at the head of 
the invading armies. In the year 739, the Saracen forces 
poured into Asia Minor in immense numbers, with all their 
early energy. Leo, who had taken the command of the 
Byzantine army, accompanied by his son Constantine, marched 
to meet Sid-al-Battal, whose great fame rendered him the 
most dangerous enemy. A battle took place at Acrolnon, m 
the Anatolic theme, in which the Saracens were totally de- 
feated. The valiant Sid, the most renowned champion of 
Islamism, perished on the field ; but the fame of his exploits 
has filled many volumes of Moslem romance, and furnished 
some of the tales that have adorned the memory of the Cid of 
Spain, three hundred years after the victory of Leo ^. The 
Western Christians have robbed the Byzantine empire of its 
glory in every way. After this defeat the Saracen power 
ceased to be formidable to the empire, until the energy of the 
caliphate was revived by the vigorous ajlministration of the 

Leo's victories over the Mohammedans were an indispens- 
able step to the establishment of his personal authority. But 
the measures of administrative wisdom which rendered his 
reign a new era in Roman history, are its most important 
feature in the annals of the human race. His military ex- 
ploits were the result of ordinary virtues, and of talents 
common in every age ; but the ability to reform the internal 
government of an empire, in accordance with the exigencies of 
society, can only be appreciated by those who have made the 
causes and the progress of national revolutions the object of 
long thought. The intellectual superiority of Leo may be 
estimated by the incompetence of sovereigns in the present 

* Acrolnon was doubtless at Sid-el-Ghazi, nine hours to the south of Eskishehr 
(Dorylaeum), where the tomb of Sid-al-Battal-el-Ghazi is still shown. Leake, 
Asia Minor, 3i. Weil {Gesehichte der Chali/en, i. 638) calls the hero Abd Allah ; 
while d'Herbelot {Bibliothique Oritntale, «. v. • Batthal ') calls him Abu Mohammed. 
Theophanes (345) calls him simply BardX, See also Hammer, HUtoire dt PEmpir$ 
Ottoman, par Hellert, i. 60, 37a. 

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AJ). 716-741.] 

century to meet new exigencies of society. Leo judiciously 
availed himself of many circumstances that favoured his 
reforms. The inherent vigour which is nourished by parochial 
and municipal responsibilities, bound together the remnants of 
the free population in the eastern Roman empire, and operated 
powerfully in resisting foreign domination. The universal 
respect felt for the administration of justice, and the general 
deference paid to the ecclesiastical establishment, inspired the 
inhabitants with energies wanting in the West. Civilization 
was so generally diffused, that the necessity of upholding the 
civil and ecclesiastical tribunals, and defending the channels 
of commercialjntercourse, reunited a powerful body of the 
people in every province to the central administration, by the 
strongest ties of interest and feeling. 

The oppressive authority of the court of Constantinople 
had been much weakened by the anarchy that prevailed 
throughout the empire in the latter part of the seventh 
century. The government had been no longer able to inun- 
date the provinces with those bands of officials who had 
previously consumed the wealth of the curia; and the local 
authorities in each city had been compelled to provide for its 
defence by assuming powers hitherto reserved to the imperial 
officers. These new duties had inspired the people with new 
vigour, and developed unexpected talents. The fiscal guaran- 
tees, and the restrictions on individual action by which the 
administration of imperial Rome fettered the industry of its 
subjects, from the senator to the ticket-porter, were lightened 
when the Western Empire fell a prey to foreign conquerors, 
and when the Eastern became filled with foreign colonists ^ 
The curiales and the corporations at last relieved themselves 
from the attempt of the Roman government to fix society in 
a stationary condition, and the relief was followed by imme- 
diate improvement. Troubled times had also made the clergy 
more anxious to conciliate public opinion than official favour. 
A better and more popular class of bishops replaced the 
worldly priests satirized by Gregory Nazianzenus *. The 
influence of this change was very great, for the bishop, as 
the defender of the curia, and the real head of the people 

' Compare Cod, Tkeod. vi. 11 ; De Senator ibus; and xiv. 22\ De Saceariis. 
' Carmen ad Episcopot^ v. 145. 

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in the municipality, enjoyed extensive authority over the 
corporations of artisans and the mass of the labouring popu- 
lation. From a judge he gradually acquired the power of 
a civil governor, and the curia became his senate. The 
ordinary judicial tribunals being cut off from direct com- 
munication with the supreme courts, peculiar local usages 
gained force, and a customary law arose in many provinces 
restricting the application of the code of Justinian. The 
orthodox church alone preserved its unity of character, and 
its priests continued to be guided by principles of centraliza- 
tion, which preserved their connection with the seat of the 
patriarchate at Constantinople, without injuring the energetic 
spirit of their local resistance to the progress of the Moham- 
medan power. Throughout the wide extent of the Eastern 
Empire, the priesthood served as a bond to connect the local 
feelings of the parish with the general interests of the orthodox 
church. Its authority was, moreover, endeared to a large 
body of the population from its language being Greek, and 
from, its holy legends embodying national feelings and pre- 
judices. Repulsive as the lives of the saints now appear 
to our taste, they were the delight of millions for many 

From the earliest period to the present hour, the wealth of 
most of the cities in the East has been derived from their 
importance as points of commercial communication. The 
insane fury of the Emperor Justinian II., in devastating the 
flourishing cities of Ravenna and Cherson, failed to ruin these 
places, because they were then great commercial entrep6ts 
of the trade between India and Europe. The alarm felt for 
the ruin of commerce throughout the Christian world, during 
the anarchy that existed in the last years of the seventh and 
early years of the eighth centuries, contributed much to render 
men contented with the firm government of Leo, even though 
they may have considered him a heretic. On the other hand, 
the anarchy prevailing in the central administration had 
relieved commerce both from much fiscal oppression and 
many ofBcial monopolies. The moment the financial burdens 
of the commercial classes were lightened, they experienced all 
the advantage of possessing a systematic administration of 
justice, enforced by a fixed legal procedure, and consequently 
they very naturally became warm partisans of the imperial 

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u). 716-741.] 

authority, as, in their opinion, the personal influence of the 
emperor constituted the true fountain of legal order and 
judicial impartiality. A fixed legislation saved society from 
dissolution during many years of anarchy. 

The obscure records of the eighth century allow us to 
discern through their dim atmosphere a considerable increase 
of power in popular feelings, and they even afford some 
glimpses of the causes of this new energy. The fermentation 
which then pervaded Christian society marks the commence- 
ment of modem civilization, as contrasted with ancient times. 
Its force arose out of the general diminution of slave labour. 
The middle classes in the towns were no longer rich enough 
to be purchasers of slaves, consequently the slave population 
henceforward became a minority in the Eastern Empire ; and 
those democratic ideas which exist among free labourers 
replaced the aristocratic caution, inseparable from the neces- 
sity of watching a numerous population of slaves. The 
general attention was directed to the equal administration of 
justice. The emperor alone appeared to be removed above 
the influence of partiality and bribery; under his powerful 
protection the masses hoped to escape official and aristocratic 
oppression, by the systematic observance of the rules of 
Roman law. The prosperity of commerce seemed as directly 
connected with the imperial supremacy as judicial equity 
itself, for the power of the emperor could alone enforce one 
uniform system of customs from Cherson to Ravenna. Every 
trader, and indeed every citizen, felt that the apparatus of 
the imperial government was necessary to secure financial 
and legal unity. Above all, Leo, the conqueror of the hitherto 
victorious Saracens, seemed the only individual who possessed 
the civil as well as the military talents necessary for averting 
the ruin of the empire. Thus many circumstances conduced 
to favour the schemes and fashion the policy of Leo, and 
to convert the strong attachment to the laws of Rome pre- 
valent in society into a lever of political power, and to render 
the devotion felt for the personal authority of the sovereign 
a means of increasing the centralization of power in the 
reformed fabric of the Roman administration. The laws of 
Rome, therefore, rather than the military power of the em- 
peror, saved Christianity. The direct result of the victories of 
Leo in the field only enabled him to consolidate his power 

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and to give the imperial administration its Byzantine type, in 

defiance of the Greek nation and the orthodox church. 

As long as Mohammedanism was only placed in collision 
with the fiscal ity of the Roman government and the intoler- 
ance of the orthodox church, the Saracens were everywhere 
victorious, and found everywhere Christian allies in the pro- 
vinces they invaded. But when anarchy and misfortune had 
destroyed the fiscal power of the state, and weakened the 
ecclesiastical intolerance of the clergy, a new point of com- 
parison between the governments of the emperors and the 
caliphs presented itself to the attention. The question, how 
justice was administered in the ordinary relations of life, 
became of vital interest. The code of Justinian was compared 
with that of the Koran. The courts presided over by judges 
and bishops were compared with those in which Mohammedan 
lawyers dispensed justice, and the feelings which arose in the 
breasts of the subjects of the Byzantine emperors changed the 
current of events. The torrent of Mohammedan conquest was 
arrested, and as long as Roman law was cultivated in the 
empire, and administered under proper control in the pro- 
vinces, the invaders of the Byzantine territory were everywhere 
unsuccessful. The inhabitants boasted with a just pride that 
they lived under the systematic rule of the Roman law, and 
not under the arbitrary sway of despotic power \ 

Such was the state of the Roman empire when Leo com- 
menced his reforms. We must now proceed to examine what 
history has recorded concerning this great reformer. 

Leo was born at Germanicia, a city of Armenia Minor, in 
the mountains near the borders of Cappadocia and Syria ^. 
Germanicia was taken by the Saracens, and the parents of 
Leo emigrated with their son to Mesembria in Thrace. They 

^ Every emperor was bound to make a confession of faith in a certain formula, 
Kccrh. rd kOifjiov, Genesius, p. ii, edit. Venet. Compare the coronation oath in 
Codinus, De Officiis Constant, c xvii., with Corpus Juris Civ. i. 14. 4, 5 ; Basilica^ 
ii. 6. 9, 10; see also Constant. Porphyr. De Adm, Imp, p. 64, and the Edoga of 
Leo III. in Leunclavius and Freher, Jtis Qraeco-Romanum^ i. p. 1 78 ; ii. p. 83 ; 
tit. ii. § 4. 

• The family of Leo, being neither Greek nor Roman, was regarded by these 
nations as foreign. The Isaurians appear to have been the subjects of the empire 
who had retained the greatest share of their original nationality. The Armenians 
and Syrians, though numerous, were always regarded as strangers rather than 
hereditary subjects. Theophanes (327, 330) and Anastasius {Hist, ia8) call Leo 
a Syrian. He seems to have considered himself an Armenian, and he married his 
daughter to an Armenian. 

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AA 716-741.] 

were persons of sufficient wealth to make the Emperor Justi- 
nian 11. a present of five hundred sheep, as he was advancing 
to regain possession of his throne with the assistance of the 
Bulgarians. This well-timed gift gained young Leo the rank 
of spatharios, the personal favour of the tyrant, and a high 
command on the Lazian frontier. His prudence and courage 
raised him, during the reign of Anastasius II., to the command 
of the Anatolic theme. 

But another history of his life, unknown to the early 
historians, Theophanes and Nicephorus, though both these 
orthodox writers were his bitter enemies and detractors, 
became current in after times, and deserves notice as pre- 
senting us with a specimen of the tales which then fed the 
mental appetite of the Greeks ^ Some fables concerning his 
life and fortunes owe their existence to the aversion with 
which his religious opinions were regarded by the Greeks. 
They supply us, in all probability, with a correct portraiture 
of the popular mind, but they certainly do not furnish us with 
accurate materials for Leo's biography. Prodigies, prophecies, 
and miracles were universally believed. Restricted communi- 
cations and n^lected education were conducting society to an 
infantine dotage. Every unusual event was said to have been 
predicted by some prophetic revelation ; and as the belief in 
the prescience of futurity was universal, public deceivers and 
self-deceivers were always found acting the part of prophets. 
It IS said to have been foretold to Leontius that he should 
ascend the throne, by two monks and an abbot ^. The 
restoration of Justinian II. had been announced to him, while 
he was in exile, by a hermit of Cappadocia^ Philippicus had 
it revealed in a dream, that he Was to become emperor ; and 
he was banished by Tiberius II. (Apsimar), when this vision 
became publicly known*. It is not, therefore, wonderful that 
Leo should have been honoured with communications from 
the other world ; though, as might have been expected from 
his heretical opinions and the orthodoxy of his historians, 
these communications are represented to have been made by 
agents from the lower rather than the higher r^ions. 

^ Compare Theophanes (336), who has do objections to calumniate Leo, with 
the later writers, Cedrenus. 450; Zonaras, ii. 103; Const. Manasses, 86; Glycas, 
a8o ; Leo Gramm. 1 73, edit. Bonn. 

* Theoph. 307; Niceph. Pat 25. » Theoph. 313. * Ih. 311, 3*9* 





A circumstance which it is believed had happened to the 
Caliph Yezid I., proved most satisfactorily to the Greeks that 
Satan often transacted business publicly by means of his 
agents on earth. Two Jews— for Jews are generally selected 
by the orthodox as the fittest agents of the demon — presented 
themselves to the caliph claiming the gift of prophecy. They 
announced that, if he should put an end to the idolatrous 
worship of images throughout his dominions, fate had pre- 
destined him to reign for forty years over a rich and flourishing 
empire. Yezid was a man of pleasure and a bigot, so that the 
prophecy was peculiarly adapted to flatter his passions. The 
images and pictures which adorned the Christian churches 
were torn down and destroyed throughout the caliph's domi- 
nions. But while Yezid was carrying his decree into execution 
he died. His son, Moawyah II., sought the Jewish prophets 
in vain, in order that he might punish them as impostors. 
The prince of darkness concealed them from his search, and 
transported them into the heart of Asia Minor, where they had 
new services to perform. 

A young man named Conon, who had quitted his native 
mountains of Isauria to gain his living as a pedlar in the 
wealthier plains, drove his ass, laden with merchandise, to 
a grove of evergreen oaks near a bubbling fountain that he 
might rest during the heat of the day, and count his recent 
gains. The ass was turned loose to pasture in the little 
meadow formed by the stream of the fountain, and Conon sat 
down in the shade, by the chapel of St. Theodore, to eat his 
frugal meal. He soon perceived two travellers resting like 
himself, and enjoying their noontide repast. These travellers 
entered into conversation with young Conon, who was a lad of 
remarkable strength, beauty, and intelligence. They allowed 
the fact to transpire that they were Jews, prophets and astrolo- 
gers, who had recently quitted the court of the caliph at Damas- 
cus, which very naturally awakened in the mind of the young 
pedlar a wish to know his future fortune, for he may have 
aspired at becoming a great post-contractor or a rich banker. 
The two Jews readily satisfied his curiosity, and, to his utter 
astonishment, informed him that he was destined to rule the 
Roman empire. As a proof of their veracity, the prophets 
declared that they sought neither wealth nor honours for 
themselves, but they conjured Conon to promise solemnly 

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AJ. 716-741.] 

that, when he ascended the throne, he would put an end to 

the idolatry which disgraced Christianity in the East. If he 

engaged to do this, they assured him that his fulfilling the 

will of Heaven would bring prosperity to himself and to the 

empire. Young Conon, believing that the prophets had 

revealed the will of God, pledged himself to purify the 

Christian church ; and he kept this promise, when he ascended 

the throne as Leo the Isaurian. But as the prophets had made 

no stipulation for the free exercise of their own creed, he did 

not consider himself guilty of ingratitude, when, as emperor, 

he persecuted the Jewish religion with the greatest severity. 

In the opinion of the historians who repeated this tale, it 

seems that Satan took no care of the Jews. 

Such is the fable by which the later Byzantine historians 
explain Leo's hostility to image-worship. This adventure 
appeared to them a probable origin of the ecclesiastical 
reforms which characterize Leo's domestic policy. In the 
bright days of Hellenic genius, such materials would have 
been woven into an immortal myth; the chapel of St. 
Theodore, its fountain, and its evergreen oaks, Conon driving 
his ass with the two unearthly Jews reclining in the shade, 
would have formed a picture familiar to the minds of 
millions ; but in the hands of ignorant monks and purblind 
chroniclers, it sinks into a dull and improbable narrative. 

Unfortunately, it is almost as difficult to ascertain the 
precise legislative and executive acts by which Leo re- 
formed the military, financial, and l^jal administration, as 
it is to obtain an impartial account of his ecclesiastical 

The military establishment of the empire had gradually 
lost its national character, from the impossibility of recruiting 
the army from among Roman citizens. In vain the soldier's 
son was fettered to his father's profession, as the artisan was 
bound to his corporation, and the proprietor to his estate ^. 

* The tendency of Roman despotism to reduce society to castes is remarkable. 
Cod, Tk»od, yii 23. 8. This feeling may be traced to the last days of the Byzan- 
tine power. Gemistos Plethon, in the projects of reform at the beginning of the 
fifteenth century, by which he hoped to save the Peloponnesus from the Turks, 
insists on the separation of the classes of soldiers and tax payers. See his me- 
morial on the State of the Peloponnesus, addressed to the despot Theodore, at 
the end of two books of Stobaeus, published by Canter, printed by Christopher 
Plaotin, Antwerp, 1575, fol. p. a a a. 


by Google 



Yet the superiority of the Roman armies seems to have 
suffered little from the loss of national spirit, as long as strict 
discipline was maintained in their ranks. For many centuries 
the majority of the imperial forces consisted of conscripts 
drawn from the lowest ranks of society, from the rude moun- 
taineers of almost independent provinces, or from foreigners 
hired as mercenaries; yet the armies of all invaders, from 
the Goths to the Saracens, were repeatedly defeated in 
pitched battles. The state maxims which separated the 
servants of the emperor from the people, survived in the 
Eastern provinces after the loss of the Western, and served 
as the basis of the military policy of the Byzantine empire, 
when reformed by Leo. The conditions of soldier and citizen 
were deemed incompatible. The law prevented the citizen 
from assuming the position of a soldier, and watched with 
jealousy any attempt of the soldier to acquire the rights and 
feelings of a citizen. An impassable barrier was placed 
between the proprietor of the soil, who was the tax-payer, 
and the defender of the state, who was an agent of the 
imperial power ^ It is true that, after the loss of the Western 
provinces, the Roman armies were recruited from the native 
subjects of the empire to a much greater d^ree than for- 
merly; and that, after the time of Heraclius, it became 
impossible to enforce the fiscal arrangements to which the 
separation of the citizen from the soldier owed its origin, 
at least with the previous strictness ^. Still the old imperial 
maxims were cherished in the reign of Leo, and the numerous 
colonies of Sclavonians, and other foreigners, established in 
the empire, owed their foundation to the supposed necessity 
of seeking for recruits as little as possible from among the 
native population of agriculturists. These colonies were 
governed by peculiar regulations, and their most important 

^ A fixed number of conscripts was drawn from each province after the time 
of Constantine ; and the proprietors, who were prohibited from serving in person, 
had to furnish conscripts. They were allowed to hire any freeman, b^;gar, or 
barbarian, with youth and strength. When the recruitment became still more 
difficult, on account of the diminished population, the Emperor Valens commuted 
the conscription for a payment of thirty-six solidi for each conscript. Cod, Theod. 
vii. 13. 7. 

' For the Roman legislation relating to the army, see Cod, Just, x. 53. 17 ; 
xi. 48. 18 ; xii. 33. a, 4; Dig. xlix. 16. 9, 13. Colons and serfs were prohibited 
from entering the army even at those period of public calamity which compelled 
the government to admit slaves' as recruits. The views of Gibbon (vol. ii. p. 324, 
Smith's edit.) require to be modified. 

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AJ>. 716-741.] 

service was* supplying a number of troops for the imperial 
army. Isauria and other mountainous districts, where it was 
difficult to collect any revenue by a land-tax, also supplied a 
fixed military contingent ^. 

Whatever modifications Leo made in the military system, 
and however great were the reforms he effected in the 
organization of the army and the discipline of the troops, 
the mass of the population continued in the Byzantine empire 
to be excluded from the use of arms, as they had been in the 
Roman times ; and this circumstance was the cause of that 
unwarlike disposition, which is made a standing reproach from 
the days of the Goths to those of the Crusaders. The state 
of society engendered by this policy opened the Western 
Empire to the northern nations, and the empire of Charle- 
magne to the Normans. Leo's great merit was, that without 
any violent political change he infused new energy into the 
Byzantine military establishment, and organized a force that 
for five centuries defended the empire without acquiring the 
power of domineering in the state. As the army was destitute 
of patriotic feeling, it was necessary to lessen the influence of 
its commanders. This was done by dividing the provinces 
into themes, appointing a general for each theme, and group- 
ing tc^ether in different stations the various corps of conscripts, 
subject nations, and hired mercenaries ^. The adoption like- 
wise of different arms, armour, and manoeuvres in the various 
corps, and their seclusion from close intercommunication with 
the native legions, guarded against the danger of those 
rebellious movements which in reality destroyed the Western 

* An anecdote of the time of Theodosius II., a.d. 448, gives a correct idea of 
the condition of the Greek population of the Eiastem Empire, at least mitil the 
time of the anarchy under Phocas. Priscus, the envoy of Theodosius II. to Attila, 
mentions that, in the Scythian territory, he was addressed in Greek by a man in 
the dress of the country — a circumstance which surprised him, as Latin was the 
costomary language of communication with foreigners, and few strangers, except 
the slaves brought from Thrace and the coast of Illyria, ever spoke Greek. The 
man proved to be a Greek who was living among the Huns. He contrasted his 
past condition, as a citizen under the Roman emperors, with his present position 
as a freeman under Attila. The Roman citizen, he said, was compelled to trust 
for defence to the arms of others, because the Roman despotism prohibited the 
use of arms to the citizen. In the time of war, consequently, he was a prey either 
to the enemy or to the mercenary troops of the emperor, while in the time of 
peace his life was rendered intolerable by fiscal oppression and official injustice. 
Exe, e Pritei Hisioria, 59, edit. Paris ; 190, edit. Bonn. 

• Leo is said to have had a body of Frank mercenaries in his service during the 
liege of Constantinople. The authority is too modern to be implicitly relied on. 
Abnlpharagius, Ch. Arab. 130. 

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Empire. As much caution was displayed in the Byzantine 

empire to prevent the army from endangering the government 

by its seditions, as to render it formidable to the enemy by its 

strength ^. 

The finances are soon felt to be the basis of government in 
all civilized states. Augustus experienced the truth of this as 
much as Louis XIV. The progress of society and the 
accumulation of wealth have a tendency to sink governments 
into the position of brokers of human intelligence, wealth, and 
labour ; and the finances form the symbol indicating the 
quantity of these which the central authority can command. 
The reforms, therefore, which it was in the power of Leo III. 
to effect in the financial administration, must have proceeded 
from the force of circumstances rather than from the mind of 
the emperor. To this cause we must attribute the durability 
of the fabric he constructed. He confined himself to arranging 
prudently the materials accumulated to his hand. But no 
sovereign, and indeed no central executive authority, can form 
a correct estimate of the taxable capacity of the people. 
Want of knowledge increases the insatiable covetousness 
suggested by their position ; and the wisest statesman is 
almost as likely to impose ruinous burdens on the people, 
if vested with despotic power, as the most rapacious tyrant. 
The people alone can find ways of levying on themselves 
an amount of taxation exceeding any burdens that the 
boldest despot could hope to impose ; for the people alone 
can perceive what taxes will have the least effect in arresting 
the increase of the national Wealth. 

Leo, who felt the importance of the financial administration 
as deeply as Augustus, reserved to himself the immediate 
superintendence of the treasury; and this special control over 
the finances was retained by his successors, so that, during 
the whole duration of the Byzantine empire, the emperors 
may be regarded as their own ministers of finance. The 
grand Logothetes, who was the official minister, was in 
reality nothing more than the emperor's private secretary 
for the department. While Leo improved the central ad- 

* There are several works on military affairs by B3rzantine emperors: — Tiu 
Strategikon of the Emperor Maurice ; The Tactics of Leo the Wise ; The Tactics 
and Strategikon of Constantine Porphyrogenitus ; and to these may be added 
The service of light troops, by Nicephorus II. (Phokas). 

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ministration, the invasions of the Saracens and Bulgarians 
made him extremely cautious in imposing heavy fiscal 
burdens on the distant cities and provinces of his dominions. 
But his reforms were certainly intended to circumscribe the 
authority of municipal and provincial institutions. The free 
cities and municipalities which had once been intrusted with 
the duty of apportioning their quota of the land-tax, and 
collecting the public burdens of their district, were now 
deprived of this authority. All fiscal business was transferred 
to the imperial officers. Each province had its own collectors 
of the revenue, its own officials charged to complete the 
rasters of the public burdens, and to verify all statistical 
details. The traditions of imperial Rome still required that 
this mass of information should be regularly transmitted to 
the cabinet of the Byzantine emperors, as at the birth of our 
Saviour ^ 

The financial acts of Leo's reign, though they show that he 
increased the direct amount of taxation levied from his sub- 
jects, prove nevertheless, by the general improvement which 
took place in the condition of the people, that his reformed 
system of financial administration really lightened the weight 
of the public burdens. Still, there can be no doubt that the 
stringency of the measures adopted in Greece and Italy, for 
rendering the census more productive, was one of the causes 
of the rebellions in those countries, for which his Iconoclastic 
decrees served as a more honourable war-cry. In Calabria 
and Sicily he added one-third to the capitation ; he con- 
fiscated to the profit of the treasury a tribute of three talents 
and a half of gold which had been remitted annually to Rome, 
and at the same time he ordered a correct register to be kept 
of all the males bom in his dominions. This last regulation 
excites a burst of indignation from the orthodox historian and 
confessor Theophanes, who allows neither his reason nor his 
memory to restrain his bigotry when recording the acts of the 
first Iconoclast emperor. He likens Leo's edict to Pharaoh's 
conduct to the children of Israel, and adds that the Saracens, 

» Luke ii. i. The Book of Accounts or tax tariff of Alexius I., published in 
the AnaUcta Graeca of the Benedictines, Pouget, Loppin, and Montfaucon, Paris, 
1688, entitled Antiquum Raiionarium Augusti Caesaris, proves by its title the 
uninterrupted transmission of Roman administrative traditions. Novel of John 
Comnenus in Leunclavius, Jus Graeco-Romanum^ i. 147 ; Novel of Manuel, i. 15^ » 
Mortreuil, HUtoire du DroU Byzantine iii. 107. 

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[Bk.I. Ch.I.§a. 

Leo's teachers in wickedness, had never exercised the like 

oppression — forgetting, in his zeal against taxation, that the 

Caliph Abdelmelik had established the haratch or capitation 

of Christians as early as the commencement of the reign of 

Justinian II., A.D. 692 ^ 

An earthquake that ruined the walls of Constantinople, and 
many cities in Thrace and Bithynia, induced Leo to adopt 
measures for supplying the treasury with a special fund for 
restoring them, and keeping their fortifications constantly in 
a state to resist the Bulgarians and Saracens. The municipal 
revenues which had once served for this purpose had been 
encroached upon by Justinian L, and the policy of Leo led 
him to diminish in every way the sphere of action of all local 

The care of the fortifications was undoubtedly a duty to 
which the central government required to give its direct 
attention ; and to meet the extraordinary expenditure caused 
by the calamitous earthquake of 740, an addition of one- 
twelfth was made to the census. This tax was called the 
dikeratofty because the payment appears to have been generally 
made in the silver coins called keratia, two of which were equal 
to a miliaresion, the coin which represented one-twelfth of the 
nomisma, or gold byzant ^. Thus a calamity which diminished 
the public resources increased the public burdens. In such 
a contingency it seems that a paternal government and a wise 
despot ought to have felt the necessity of diminishing the 
pomp of the court, of curtailing the expenses of ecclesiastical 
pageants, and of reforming the extravagance of the popular 
amusements of the hippodrome, before imposing new burdens 
on the suffering population of the empire. Courtiers, saints, 
and charioteers ought to have been shorn of their splendour, 
before the groans of the provinces were increased. Yet Leo 
was neither a luxurious nor an avaricious prince ; but, as has 
been said already, no despotic monarch can wisely measure 
the burden of taxation. 

The influence of the provincial spirit on the legislation 
of the empire is strongly marked in the history of juris- 

* Theoj^ 343. 

' Theoph. 345 ; Constan. Manasses, 93 ; Glycas, 286 ; and the words ip&Ka and 
Ktp&riov in Ducange's Glossarium Med, et Infimae Graecitatis ; see voL i. Greece 
under the Romans, Appendix ; On Roman and Byzantine Money, 

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LEO'S 'ecloga: 33 

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prudence during Leo's reign. The anarchy which had long 
interrupted the official communications between the provinces 
and the capital lent an increased authority to local usages, 
and threw obstacles in the way of the regular administration 
of justice, according to the strict letter of the voluminous laws 
of Justinian. The consequence was, that various local abridg- 
ments of the law were used as manuals, both by lawyers and 
judges, in the provincial tribunals, where the great expense of 
procuring a copy of the Justinianean collection prevented its 
use. Leo published a Greek manual of law, which by its 
official sanction became the primary authority in all the courts 
of the empire. This imperial abridgment is called the Ecloga: 
it affords some evidence concerning the state of society and 
the classes of the people for which it was prepared. Little 
notice is taken of the rights of the agriculturists ; the various 
modes of acquiring property and constituting servitudes are 
omitted. The Ecloga has been censured for its imperfections 
by Basil L, the founder of a legislative dynasty, who speaks 
of it as an insult to the earlier legislators ; yet the orthodox 
la\<^Ver, while he pretended to reject every act of the heretical 
Isaurian, servilely imitated all his political plans. The brevity 
and precision of Leo's Ecloga were highly appreciated both 
by the courts of law and the people, in spite of the heterodox 
opinions of its promulgator. It so judiciously supplied a want 
long felt by a laige portion of society, that neither the attempt 
of Basil I. to supplant it by a new official manual, nor the 
publication of the great code of the Basilika in Greek, de- 
prived it of value among the jurisconsults of the Byzantine 
empire ^. 

The legislative labours of Leo were not circumscribed to 
the publication of the Ecloga. He seems to have sanctioned 
various minor codes, by which the regulations in use relating 
to military, agricultural, and maritime law were reduced into 
systematic order. The collections which are attached to the 
Ecloga, under the heads of military, agricultural, and Rhodian 
laws, cannot, however, be considered as official acts of his 
reign ; still, they are supposed to afford us a correct idea of 

' See the works of Zachariae, whose enlightened criticism has shed light on 
this obscure period of history. Historic Juris Graeco-Romani Delintatio^ pp. i4-4'.» 
•O wp6x*ip<» y6fto9, Heidelb., 1837, p. xviii. &c ; Ecloga LtonU et Coju/on/tiu, 
Leipzig, 185 a. 

VOL.11. D 

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the originals he published. Some abstract of the provisions 
contained in the Roman legislation on military affairs was 
rendered necessary by the practice of maintaining corps of 
foreign mercenaries in the capital. A military code was like- 
wise rendered necessary, in consequence of the changes that 
took place in the old system, as the Asiatic provinces were 
gradually cleared of the invading bands of Saracens ^. The 
agricultural laws appear to be a tolerably exact copy of the 
enactments of Leo. The work bears the impress of the con- 
dition of society in his time, and it is not surprising that the 
title which perpetuated the merits and the memory of the 
heterodox Leo was suppressed by orthodox bigotry. The 
maritime laws are extremely interesting, from affording a 
picture of the state of commercial legislation in the eighth 
century, at the time when commerce and law saved the 
Roman empire. The exact date of the collection we possess 
is not ascertained. That Leo protected commerce, we may 
infer from its reviving under his government; whether he 
promulgated a code to sanction or enforce his reforms, or 
whether the task was completed by one of his successors, is 

The whole policy of Leo^s reign has been estimated by his 
ecclesiastical reforms. These have been severely judged by 
all historians, and they appear to have encountered a violent 
opposition from a large portion of his subjects. The general 
dissatisfaction has preserved sufficient authentic information 
to allow of a candid examination of the merits and errors of 
his policy. Theophanes considers the aversion of Leo to the 
adoration of images as originating in an impious attachment 
to the unitarianism of the Arabs. His own pages, however, 
refute some of his calumnies, for he records that Leo per- 
secuted the unitarianism of the Jews, and the tendency to it 
in the Montanists •. Indeed, all those who differed from the 

* Mortreuil, Histoire du Droit Byzantin, i. 393, 

* Theoph. 336, 343. Mortrenil, in his Histoire du Droit Byzantin (i. 348), cites 
the law against the Tews and Montanists from Bonefidius {Juris Orientalis lAhri 
Tres), and refers to Cedrenus. But most of the laws cited by Bonefidius fix)m 
Cedrenus will be found in Theophanes and the older Byzantine writers, not 
published when Bonefidius made his compilation; and reference ought to be 
made to these authorities. In this case, what is called a law seems to have been 
a series of edicts. Theophanes says that the Jews submitted to baptism and 
mocked the sacraments; the more conscientious Montanists burned themselves 
in their places of worship. 

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most orthodox acknowledgment of the Trinity received very 
Kttle Christian charity at the hands of the Isaurian, who 
placed the cross on the reverse of many of his gold, silver, 
and copper coins, and over the gates of his palace, as a symbol 
for universal adoration. In his Iconoclast opinions, Leo is 
merely a type of the more enlightened laymen of his age. 
A strong reaction against the superstitions introduced into 
the Christian religion by the increasing ignorance of the 
people pervaded the educated classes, who were anxious to 
put a stop to what might be considered a revival of the ideas 
and feelings of paganism. The Asiatic Christians, who were 
brought into frequent collision with the followers of Mahomet, 
2^roaster, and Moses, were compelled to observe that the 
worship of the common people among themselves was sensual, 
when compared with the devotion of the infidels. The wor- 
ship of God was neglected, and his service transferred to some 
human symbol. The favourite saint was usually one whose 
faults were found to bear some analogy to the vices of his 
worshipper, and thus pardon was supposed to be obtained for 
sin on easier terms than accords with Divine justice, and vice 
was consequently rendered more prevalent. The clergy had 
yielded to the popular ignorance ; the walls of churches were 
covered with pictures which were reported to have wrought 
miraculous cures; their shrines were enriched by paintings 
not made with hands ^ ; the superstitions of the people were 
increased, and the doctrines of Christianity were neglected. 
Pope Gregory II., in a letter to Leo, mentions the fact, that 
men expended their estates to have the sacred histories 
represented in paintings ^ 

In a time of general reform, and in a government where 
ecclesiastics acted as administrative officials of the central 
authority, it was impossible for Leo to permit the church to 
remain quite independent in ecclesiastical affairs, unless he 
was prepared for the clergy assuming a gradual supremacy in 
the state. The clergy, being the only class in the adminis- 
tration of public affairs connected with the people by interest 

' 'Axcipovolipa. Nothing can better prove the extent to which superstition 
had contanainated religion than the assertion of the Patriarch Germanos, that 
miracles were daily wrought by the images of Christ and the saints, and that 
balsam distilled from the painted hand of an image of the Virgin Mary. Neander, 
Bistory oftht Ckrisiian Religion and Church (Torrey's translation), iii. 206. 

' Nenoder, iii. aia. 

D 2 

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and feelings, was always sure of a powerful popular support. 
It appeared, therefore, necessary to the emperor to secure 
them as sincere instruments in carrying out all his reforms, 
otherwise there was some reason to fear that they might 
constitute themselves the leaders of the people in Greece and 
Asia, as they had already done at Rome, and control the 
imperial administration throughout the whole Eastern Empire, 
as completely as they did in the Byzantine possessions in 
central Italy. 

Leo commenced his ecclesiastical reforms in the year 726, 
by an edict ordering all pictures in churches to be placed so 
high as to prevent the people from kissing them, and prohibit- 
ing prostration before these symbols, or any act of public wor- 
ship being addressed to them. Against this moderate edict of 
the emperor, the Patriarch Germanos and the Pope Gregory II. 
made strong representations. The opposition of interest which 
reigned between the church and the state impelled the two 
bodies to a contest for supremacy which it required centuries 
to decide, and both Germanos and Gregory were sincere 
supporters of image-worship. To the ablest writer of the 
time, — the celebrated John Damascenus, who dwelt under the 
protection of the caliph at Damascus, among Mohammedans 
and Jews, — this edict seemed to mark a relapse to Judaism, 
or a tendency to Islamism. He felt himself called upon to 
combat such feelings with all the eloquence and power of 
argument he possessed. The empire was thrown into a 
ferment ; the lower clergy and the whole Greek nation de- 
clared in favour of image-worship. The professors of the 
university of Constantinople, an institution of a Greek cha- 
racter, likewise declared their opposition to the edict. Liberty 
of conscience was the watchword against the imperial autho- 
rity. The Pope and the Patriarch denied the right of the 
civil power to interfere with the doctrines of the church ; the 
monks everywhere echoed the words of John Damascenus, ' It 
is not the business of the emperor to make laws for the 
church. Apostles preached the gospel ; the welfare of the 
state is the monarch's care ; pastors and teachers attend to 
that of the church ^' The despotic principles of Leo's admi- 
nistration, and the severe measures of centralization which 

^ Johnr Damascenus, Orat, ii. 13, quoted in Neander's History, iii. 309. 

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he enforced as the means of reorganizing the public service, 
created many additional enemies to his government. 

The rebellion of the inhabitants of Greece, which occurred 
in the year 727, seems to have originated in a dissatisfaction 
with the fiscal and administrative reforms of Leo, to which 
local circumstances, unnoticed by historians, gave peculiar 
violence, and which the edict against image-worship fanned 
into a flame. The unanimity of all classes, and the violence 
of the popular zeal in favour of their local privileges and 
superstitions, suggested the hope of dethroning Leo, and 
placing a Greek on the throne of Constantinople. A naval 
expedition, composed of the imperial fleet in the Cyclades, 
and attended by an army from the continent, was fitted out to 
attack the capital. Agallianos, who commanded the imperial 
forces stationed to watch the Sclavonians settled in Greece, 
was placed at the head of the army destined to assail the 
conqueror of the Saracens. A new emperor was proclaimed, 
whose name was Kosmas. In the month of April the Greek 
fleet appeared before Constantinople, but events soon proved 
that the Greeks,^ confiding in the goodness of their cause, had 
greatly overrated their own valour and strength, or strangely 
overlooked the resources of the Iconoclasts. Leo met the 
fleet as it approached his capital, and completely defeated 
it. Agallianos, with the spirit of a hero, when he saw the 
utter ruin of the enterprise, plunged fully armed into the sea 
rather than surrender. Kosmas was taken prisoner, with 
another leader, and immediately beheaded. Leo, however, 
treated the mass of the prisoners with mildness \ 

Even if we admit that the Greeks displayed considerable 
presumption in attacking the Isaurian emperor, still we must 
accept the fact as a proof of the populous condition of the 
cities and islands of Greece, and of the flourishing condition of 
their trade, at a period generally represented as one of 
wretchedness and poverty. Though the Peloponnesus was 
filled with Sclavonian emigrants, and the Greek peasantry 
were in many districts excluded from the cultivation of the 
land in the seats of their ancestors, nevertheless their cities then 

* Tbeophanes (330) calls the insurgents Helladikoi, and Cedrenus (i. 454) copies 
the scornful expression. Had the insurrection been believed to have originated 
in religious feeling, surely the orthodox confessor Theophanes would have regarded 
the sufi^ers as martyrs. 

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contained the mercantile wealth and influence, which passed 

some centuries later into the possession of Venice, Amalfi, 

Genoa, and Pisa. 

The opposition Leo encountered only confirmed him in his 
persuasion that it was indispensably necessary to increase the 
power of the central government in the provinces. As he was 
sincerely attached to the opinions of tiie Iconoclasts, he was 
led to connect his ecclesiastical reforms with his political mea- 
sures, and to pursue both with additional zeal. In order to 
secure the active support of all the officers of the administra- 
tion, and exclude all image- worshippers from power, he con- 
voked an assembly, called a silention, consisting of the senators 
and the highest functionaries in the church and state. In this 
solemn manner it was decreed that images were to be removed 
from all the churches throughout the empire. In the capital 
the change met with no serious opposition. The population 
of Constantinople, at every period of its history, has consisted 
of a mixed multitude of different nations \ nor has the majority 
ever been purely Greek for any great length of time. Nicetas, 
speaking of a time when the Byzantine empire was at the 
height of its power, and when the capital was more a Greek 
city than at any preceding or subsequent period, declares that 
its population was composed of various races ^ The cause of 
image-worship was, however, generally the popular cause, and 
the Patriarch Germanos steadily resisted every change in the 
actual practice of the church until that change should be 
sanctioned by a general council *. 

The turn now given to the dispute put an end to the power 
of the Eastern emperors in central Italy. The Latin provinces 
of the Roman empire, even before their conquest by the 
barbarians, had sunk into deeper ignorance than the Eastern. 
Civilization had penetrated farther into society among the 
Greeks, Armenians, and Syrians than among the Italians, 
Gauls, and Spaniards. Italy was already dissatisfied with 
the Constantinopolitan domination, when Leo's fiscal and 
religious reforms roused local interests and national prejudices 
to unite in opposing his government. The Pope of Rome had 
long been regarded by orthodox Christians as the head of the 

Nicetas, Altxius, 15a. 

Niceph. Pat. 38 : ^cv oltcoviuym^i ffw6tw HYfpa^ iriorty oitc iitrlBtfuu, 


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church; even the Greeks admitted his right of inspection 
over the whole body of the clergy, in virtue of the superior 
dignity of the Roman see^. From being the heads of the 
church, the popes became the defenders of the liberties of the 
people. In this character^ as leaders of a lawful opposition 
to the tyranny of the imperial administration, they grew up to 
the possession of immense influence in the state. This power, 
having its basis in democratic feelings and eneigies, alarmed 
the emperors, and many attempts were made to circumscribe 
the papal authority. But the popes themselves did more to 
diminish their own influence than their enemies, for instead of 
remaining the protectors of the people, they aimed at making 
themselves their masters. Gregory II., who occupied the 
papal chair at the commencement of the contest with Leo, 
was a man of sound judgment, as well as an able and zealous 
priest He availed himself of all the advantages of his posi- 
tion, as political chief of the Latin race, with prudence and 
moderation ; nor did he neglect the power he derived from 
the circumstance that Rome was the fountain of religious 
instruction for all western Europe. Both his political and 
ecclesiastical position entitled him to make a direct opposition 
to any oppressive measure of the emperor of Constantinople, 
when the edicts of Leo III. concerning image-worship 
prompted him to commence the contest, which soon ended 
in separating central Italy from the Byzantine empire. 

The possessions of the Eastern emperors in Italy were still 
considerable. Venice, Rome, Ravenna, Naples, Bari, and 
Tarentum were all capitals of well-peopled and wealthy 
districts. The province embracing Venice and Rome was 
governed by an imperial viceroy or exarch who resided at 
Ravenna, and hence the Byzantine possessions in central 
Italy were called the Exarchate of Ravenna. Under the 
orders of the exarch, three governors or dukes commanded 
the troops in Ravenna, Rome, and Venice. As the native 
militia enrolled to defend the province from the Lombards 
formed a considerable portion of the military force, the 
popular feelings of the Italians exercised "some influence over 
the soldiery. The Constantinopolitan governor was generally 
disliked, on account of the fiscal rapacity of which he was the 

*■ Sozomen, Hist, EecU$, iii. c 8. 

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agent ; and nothing but the dread of greater oppression on the 
part of the Lombards, whom the ItaHans had not the courage 
to encounter without the assistance of the Byzantine troops, 
preserved the people of central Italy in their allegiance. 
They hated the Greeks, but they feared the Lombards. 

Gregory IL sent Leo strong representations against his first 
edicts on the subject of image-worship, and after the silention 
he repeated these representations, and entered on a more 
decided course of opposition to the emperor's ecclesiastical 
reforms, being then convinced that there was no hope of Leo 
abandoning his heretical opinions. It seems that Italy, like 
the rest of the empire, had escaped in some degree from the 
oppressive burden of imperial taxation during the anarchy 
that preceded Leo*s election. But the defeat of the Saracens 
before Constantinople had been followed by the re-establish- 
ment of the fiscal system. To overcome the opposition now 
made to the financial and ecclesiastical reforms, the exarch 
Paul was ordered to march to Rome and support Marinus, 
the duke, who found himself unable to contend against the 
papal influence \ The whole of central Italy burst into rebel- 
lion at this demonstration against its civil and religious 
interests. The exarch was compelled to shut himself up in 
Ravenna ; for the cities of Italy, instead of obeying the impe- 
rial officers, elected magistrates of their own, on whom they 
conferred, in some cases, the title of duke ^. Assemblies were 
held, and the project of electing an emperor of the West was 
adopted ; but the unfortunate result of the rebellion of Greece 
damped the courage of the Italians ; and though a rebel, 
named Tiberius Petasius, really assumed the purple in Tus- 
cany, he was easily defeated and slain by Eutychius, who 
succeeded Paul as exarch of Ravenna. Luitprand, king 
of the Lombards, taking advantage of these dissensions, 
invaded the imperial territory, and gained possession of 
Ravenna; but Gregory, who saw the necessity of saving 
the country from the Lombards and from anarchy, wrote to 
Ursus the duke of Venice, one of his warm partisans, and 
persuaded him to join Eutychius. The Lombards were 
defeated by the Byzantine troops, Ravenna was recovered, 

* The Latins accused Leo of ordering Mannus to assassinate the pope. 
' Anastas. i)« VU, Poni, Rom. 69. 

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and Eutychius entered Rome with a victorious army \ Gre- 
gory died in 731. Though he excited the Italian cities to 
resist the imperial power, and approved of the measures 
they adopted for stopping the remittance of their taxes to 
Constantinople*, he does not appear to have adopted any 
measures for declaring Rome independent. That he con- 
templated the possibility of events taking a turn that might 
ultimately lead him to throw off his allegiance to the Emperor 
Leo, is nevertheless evident, from one of his letters to that 
emi>eror, in which he boasts very significantly that the eyes 
of the West were fixed on his humility, and that if Leo 
attempted to injure the Pope, he would find the West ready 
to defend him, and even to attack Constantinople. The 
allusion to the protection of the king of the Lombards and 
Charles Martel was certainly, in this case, a treasonable threat 
on the part of the Bishop of Rome to his sovereign ^. Besides 
this, Gregory IL excommunicated the exarch Paul, and all 
the enemies of image-worship who were acting under the 
orders of the emperor, pretending to avoid the guilt of treason 
by not expressly naming the Emperor Leo in his anathema *. 
On the other hand, when we consider that Leo was striving to 
extend the bounds of the imperial authority in an arbitrary 
manner, and that his object was to sweep away every barrier 
against the exercise of despotism in the church and the state, we 
must acknowledge that the opposition of Gregory was founded 
in justice, and that he was entitled to defend the municipal 
institutions and local usages of Italy, and the constitution of 
the Romish church, even at the price of declaring himself a 

The election of Gregory III. to the papal chair was con- 
firmed by the Emperor Leo in the usual form ; nor was that 
pope consecrated until the mandate from Constantinople 
reached Rome. This was the last time the emperors of the 
East were solicited to confirm the election of a pope. Mean- 
while Leo steadily pursued his schemes of ecclesiastical 

' Baronii Ann, EceUs, ix. p. 137, a.d. 729. 

" Theoph. 338. 

■ Histoire des Souverains Pontifes Romains, par le Chev. Artaud de Montor, 
i. 438. This work is more remarkable for popish bigotry than for historical 
accuracy. Two episUes of Grqgory II. are preserved among the acts of the 
second councU of Kicaea. Coleti, Acta S, Coneil, viii. 651, 674. 

* Theoph. 34 a ; Anastas. Di Vit. Poni, Rom, 69. 

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[Bk.LCh,I. §a. 

reform, and the opposition to his measures gathered strength. 
Gregory III. assembled a council in Rome, at which the 
municipal authorities, whose power Leo was endeavouring 
to circumscribe, were present along with the nobles ; and 
in this council the whole body of the Iconoclasts was excom- 
municated. Leo now felt that force alone could maintain 
Rome and its bishops in their allegiance. With his usual 
energy, he despatched an expedition under the command 
of Manes, the general of the Kibyrraiot theme, with orders 
to send the pope a prisoner to Constantinople, to be tried 
for his treasonable conduct. A storm in the Adriatic, the 
lukewarm conduct of the Greeks in the imperial service, and 
the courage of the people of Ravenna, whose municipal 
institutions still enabled them to act in an organized manner, 
caused the complete overthrow of Manes. Leo revenged 
himself for this loss by confiscating all the estates of the 
papal see in the eastern provinces of his empire, and by 
separating the ecclesiastical government of southern Italy, 
Sicily, Greece, lUyria, and Macedonia, from the papal juris- 
diction, and placing these countries under the immediate 
authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. 

From this time, a.d. 733, the city of Rome enjoyed 
political independence under the guidance and protection of 
the popes ^ ; but the officers of the Byzantine emperors were 
allowed to reside in the city, justice was publicly administered 
by Byzantine judges, and the supremacy of the Eastern 
Empire was still recognised. So completely, however, had 
Gregory III. thrown off his allegiance, that he entered into 
negotiations with Charles Martel, in order to induce that 
powerful prince to take an active part in the affairs of Italy*. 
The pope was now a much more powerful personage than the 
Exarch of Ravenna, for the cities of central Italy, which had 
assumed the control of their local government, intrusted the 
conduct of their external political relations to the care of 
Gregory, who thus held the balance of power between the 
Eastern emperor and the Lombard king *. In the year 742, 
while Constantine V., the son of Leo, was engaged with a 
civil war, the Lombards were on the eve of conquering 

» Anastas. D« ViL Pont. Rom. 74. 

' Bossuet, Defens, Cler. Gallic, ii. c. xvili. 

■ Paulus Diaconus, vi. c. 54. 

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Ravenna, but Pope Zacharias threw the whole of the Latin 
influence into the Byzantine scale, and enabled the exarch to 
maintain his position until the year 751, when Astolph, king 
of the Lombards, captured Ravenna ^. The exarch retired to 
Naples, and the authority of the Byzantine emperors in 
central Italy ended. 

The physical history of our globe is so intimately connected 
with the condition of its inhabitants, that it is well to record 
those remarkable variations from the ordinary course of nature 
which strongly affected the minds of contemporaries. The 
influence of famine and pestilence, during the tenth and 
eleventh centuries, in accelerating the extinction of slavery, 
has been pointed out by several recent writers on the subject, 
though that effect was not observed by the people who lived 
at the time. The importance of the late famine in Ireland, 
as a political cause, must be felt by any one who attempts to 
trace the origin of that course of social improvement on which 
the Irish seem about to enter. The severity of the winter of 
717 aided Leo in defeating the Saracens at Constantinople. 
In the year 726, a terrific eruption of the dormant submarine 
volcano at the island of Thera (Santorin), in the Archipelago, 
was r^arded by the bigoted image-worshippers as a mani- 
festation of divine wrath against Leo's reforms. For several 
days the sea between Thera and Therasia boiled up with 
great violence, vomiting forth flames^ and enveloping the 
neighbouring islands in clouds of vapour and smoke. The 
flames were followed by showers of dust and pumice-stone, 
which covered the surface of the sea, and were carried by 
the waves to the shores of Asia Minor and Macedonia *. At 
last a new island rose out of the sea, and gradually ex- 
tended itself until it joined the older rocky islet called 
Hiera ^ 

' The exarchate is usually said to have terminated in 753, after existing 184 
years; but there is an act of Astolph, dated at Ravenna, 4th July, 751. Fan- 
tncci, Mwiumend Ravennati, torn. v. pp. 13, 203 ; Muratori, Ant. Ilal. v. 689. 

• Pumice-stone is sometimes found floating in the Archipelago at the present 
day, and there is generally a good deal on the shore of Attica, near Cape Zoster, 
washed thither from Santorin. 

* Theoph. 339; Niceph. Pat. 37. This addition to Hiera (Palaia Kaumene) 
may still be traced. Uistoire et Phinomenes du Volcan de Santorin^ par TAbb^ 
P^es, 136; Ross, Reisen auf den Grieehischen Insdn, i. 8p. The author is re- 
minded by this note of the pleasure he derived from a visit to Santorin in 1837, 
with Protessor Ross of Halle, a most accomplished and profound scholar, and 
Professor C. Ritter, the great geographer of Berlin. [Hiera was thrown up in 

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In the year 740, a terrible earthquake destroyed great part 
of the walls of Constantinople. The statue of Arcadius, on 
the Theodosian column in Xerolophon, and the statue of 
Theodosius over the golden gate, were both thrown down '. 
Churches, monasteries, and private buildings were ruined : 
the walls of many cities in Thrace and Bithynia, particularly 
Nicomedia, Praenetus, and Nicaea, were so injured as to 
require immediate restoration. This great earthquake caused 
the imposition of the tax already alluded to, termed the 

Leo has been accused as a persecutor of learning. It is by 
no means impossible that his Asiatic education and puritanical 
opinions rendered him hostile to the legendary literature and 
ecclesiastical art then cultivated by the Greeks ; but the 
circumstance usually brought forward in support of his 
barbarism is one of the calumnies invented by his enemies, 
and re-echoed by orthodox bigotry. He is said to have 
ordered a library consisting of 33,000 volumes, in the neigh- 
bourhood of St. Sophia's, to be burned, and the professors of 
the university to be thrown into the flames. A valuable 
collection of books seems to have fallen accidentally a prey 
to the flames during his reign, and neither his liberality nor 
the public spirit of the Greeks induced them to display any 
activity in replacing the loss ^. 

Leo III. died in the year 741. He had crowned his son 
Constantine emperor in the year 720, and married him 
to Irene, the daughter of the Khan of the Khazars, in 

the year iq6 b.c. Of the two other islands, which with Hiera form the group 
in the centre of the basin between Thera and Therasia, that called Mikra Kaamene 
rose from the sea in a.d. 1573, while that which lies between them, and is by far 
the largest of the three, Nea Kaumene, rose in 1707. This last was the scene 
of the great eruption of 1866, which has occurred since the author wrote, and the 
crater then formed still emits sulphurous steam. Ed.] 

' Dncange, Consiantinopolis Christiana^ 78, 81. Scarlatos Byzantios, *H Kut^trnM- 
TivovvoXii, 1. 289. The latter is a work of more pretension than value. 

• Constant. Manasses, 87 ; Schlosser, Oeschichte der hildinturmenden Kaiser, 163 ; 
Spanheim, Historia Imaginum Restituta, 115. Maimbourg {Histoire de VHirisU des 
Iconoclastes, i. 58) believes and magnifies the accounts of the later Byzantine chro- 
nicles, in spite of the silence of Leo's earlier enemies. According to Ephraemios 
(v. 1007) a library of i volumes had been destroyed by fire in the reign of 
Zeno, in which was the MS of the Iliad and Odyssey, written with letters of gold 
on serpent's skin This MS. was 1 20 feet long. 

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.741-775.1 ^ 

Sect. III. — Canstantine V. (Copronymus\ a.d. 741-775. 

Character of Constantine V.— Rebellion of Artavasdos.— Saracen war.— Bulgarian 

war. — Internal condition of the empire. — Policy regarding image-worship. 

Physical phenomena — Plague at Constantinople. 

Constantine V., called Copronymus ^, ascended the throne 
at the age of twenty-two, but he had already borne the title 
of emperor as his father's colleague one and twenty years, for 
the Byzantine empire preserved so strictly the elective type 
of the Roman imperial dignity, that the only mode of securing 
the hereditary transmission of the empire was for the reigning 
emperor to obtain his son's election during his own lifetime. 
Historians tell us that Constantine was a man possessing 
every vice disgraceful to humanity, combined with habits and 
tastes which must have rendered his company disgusting and 
his person contemptible. Yet they record facts proving that 
he possessed great talents, and that, even when his fortunes 
appeared desperate, he found many devoted friends. The 
obloquy heaped on his name must therefore be ascribed to 
the blind passion inspired by religious bigotry. The age was 
not one of forbearance and charity. The wisest generally 
considered freedom of opinion a species of anarchy incom- 
patible with orthodoxy, moral duty, and good government ; 
consequently, both Iconoclasts and image-worshippers ap- 
proved of persecution, and practised calumny in favour of 
what each considered the good cause. Constantine tortured 
the image-worshippers — they revenged themselves by de- 
faming the emperor. But the persecutions which rendered 
Constantine a monster in the eyes of the Greeks and Italians, 
elevated him to the rank of a saint in the opinion of a large 
body of the population of the empire, who regarded the 
worship of pictures as a species of idolatry abhorrent to 
Christianity. His religious zeal, political success, courage, 
military talents, together with the prosperity that attended 
his government, all conspired to make him the idol of 

* Constantine received his name of Copronjrmus from having defiled the bap- 
tismal font when the Patriarch plunged him into thr water according to the. usage 
of the Greek Church ; if not in fact, at least metaphorically. 

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[Bk.I Ch.I.53. 

the Iconoclasts, who regarded his tomb as a sacred shrine 

until it was destroyed by Michael the orthodox drunkard ^. 

Constantine was able, prudent, active, and brave; but he 
was not more tender of human suffering than great monarchs 
generally are. The Patriarch Nicephorus justly accuses him 
of driving monks from their monasteries, and converting 
sacred buildings into barracks. In modem times orthodox 
papist sovereigns have frequently done the same thing, 
without exciting much ecclesiastical indignation. But when 
the Patriarch assures us that the emperor's mind was as 
filthy as his name, we may be allowed to suspect that his 
pen is guided by orthodoxy instead of truth ; and when we 
find grave historians recording that he loved the odour of 
horse-dung, and carried on amours with old maids, we are 
reminded of the Byzantine love of calumny which could 
delight in the anecdotes of Procopius, and believe that the 
Emperor Justinian was a man of such diabolical principles, 
that he was not ashamed to walk about his palace for many 
hours of the night without his head ^ An account of the 
reign of Constantine by an intelligent Iconoclast, even if he 
represented the emperor as a saint, would be one of the most 
valuable illustrations of the history of the eighth century 
which time could have spared. He was accused of rejecting 
the practice of invoking the intercession of the Virgin Mary, 
though it is admitted he called her the Mother of God. He 
was also said to have denied the right of any man to be called 
a saint ; and he had even the audacity to maintain, that 
though the martyrs benefited themselves by their sufferings, 
their merit, however great it might be, was not a quality that 
could be transferred to others. His enemies r^farded these 
opinions as damnable heresies ^ Few reputations, however, 
have passed through such an ordeal of malice as that of 
Constantine, and preserved so many undeniable virtues. 

Shortly after his succession, Constantine lost possession of 
Constantinople through the treachery of his brother-in-law 
Artavasdos, who assumed the title of emperor, and kept pos- 
session of the throne for two years. Artavasdos was an 

* Scriptores post Theophanem; SymeoD Mag. 449; Georg. Mon. 541. 

' Niceph. Pat. 88 ; Suidas, «. v. KaiyarayrcVot ; Procop. Historia Arcana, iii. 80, 
edit. Bonn. 

• Neander, History of the Christian Rdigion, iii. a 18. 

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AJ>. 741-775.] 

Armenian noble, who had commanded the troops of the 
Armeniac theme in the reign of Theodosius III., and aided 
Leo to mount the throne. He was rewarded with the hand of 
Anna, the Isaurian's only daughter, and with the dignity of 
curopalates, second only to that of Caesar, a rank then usually 
reserved for the imperial blood. Artavasdos had increased 
his influence by favouring the orthodox ; his long services in 
the highest administrative offices had enabled him to attach 
many partisans to his personal cause in every branch of the 
public service. The manner in which Constantine was 
engaged in a civil war with his brother-in-law reflected no 
dishonour on the character of the young emperor. 

The Saracens had pushed their incursions into the Opsikian 
theme, where the imperial guards, under the command of 
Artavasdos, were stationed. Constantine took the field in 
person to oppose the enemy, and advanced to the plains of 
Krasos. Here he ordered Artavasdos, who was at Dorylaeum, 
to join him with the troops of the Opsikian theme. The order 
alarmed Artavasdos, who seems to have been already engaged 
in treasonable intrigues. Instead of obeying, he assumed the 
title of emperor, and attacked Constantine so unexpectedly 
that the imperial army was easily dispersed, and the young 
emperor could only avoid being taken prisoner by galloping 
off alone. When his own horse sank from fatigue, Constan- 
tine was fortunate enough to find another waiting ready 
saddled at the door of a post-house, which he mounted and 
continued his flight. He succeeded in reaching Amorium 
in safety^ 

Artavasdos marched to Constantinople, where, it appears 
from coins, he afi*ected for some time to act as the colleague 
of Constantine ; and it is possible that some treaty may have 
been concluded between the brothers-in-law^. The usurper, 
however, soon considered himself strong enough, with the 
support of the orthodox, to set Constantine aside. The pope 
acknowledged him as emperor, pictures were replaced in the 
churches, a strong body of Armenian troops was collected, 
and Nicephorus, the eldest son of Artavasdos, was crowned as 
his father's colleague; while Niketas, the second, took the 

* Theoph. 347; Niceph. Pat. 38; Le Beau Histnire du Bas-Empin, xii..i9o; 
Saint-Martin's notes. Krasos was a town of Phrygia Pacatiana. 
' De Saulcy, Eisai de Gassification des Suitts MotUtaires Byzantines, 156. 

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command of the Armeniac theme, where the family possessed 

great influence. All persons suspected of favouring Constan- 

tine were persecuted as heretics hostile to picture-worship. 

In the following year (742) Constantine assembled an army 
composed chiefly of the troops of the Thrakesian and Anatolic 
themes. With this force he marched to Chrysopolis (Scutari), 
hoping that a party in Constantinople would declare in his 
favour; but, being disappointed, he was compelled to with- 
draw to Amorium, where he passed the winter. In spring, 
Artavasdos marched to dislodge him, ordering his son Niketas 
to bring up the Armenian troops to operate on the right flank 
of the young emperor. The usurper laid waste all the country 
on his line of march, as if it was a territory he never hoped to 
govern. Constantine, whose military genius had been cul- 
tivated by his father, formed a daring plan of campaign, and 
executed it in the most brilliant manner. While his enemies 
believed that they were advancing to attack him with superior 
forces, he moved forward with such celerity as to become the 
attacking party, before they could approach near enough to 
combine any simultaneous movements. His first attack was 
directed against Artavasdos, whose numerous army was infe- 
rior in discipline to that of Niketas, and over which he 
expected an easier victory. A general engagement took place 
near Sardis, on quitting the Kelvian plain, watered by the 
Kayster. The victory was complete. The usurper was 
closely pursued to Cyzicus, from whence he escaped by sea 
to Constantinople. Constantine then moved forward to meet 
Niketas, who was defeated in a bloody battle fought at 
Modrina, in the Boukellarian theme, to the east of the San- 
garius. The Armenian auxiliaries and the troops of the 
Armeniac theme sustained their high reputation, and long 
disputed the victory. 

The emperor then marched to invest Constantinople, cross- 
ing the Bosphorus with one division of his army, and sending 
another, under the command of Sisinnios, the general of the 
Thrakesian theme, to cross the Hellespont at Abydos, and 
reduce the cities on the shores of the Propontis. The fleet of 
the Kibyrraiot theme blockaded the capital by sea. All 
communications with Greece, one of the strongholds of the 
image-worshippers, were thus cut off*. Constantine repulsed 
every sally by land, and famine quickly made frightful ravages 

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A.D. 741-775] 

in the dense population of the capital, where no preparations 
had been made for a si^e. Constantine acted on this occa- 
sion in a very different manner from Artavasdos during the 
campaign in Asia Minor. He felt that the people suddenly- 
besieged were his own subjects ; and his enemies record that 
he allowed all the starving population to seek refuge in his 

Niketas quickly reassembled the fugitives of his own and his 
father's army, and made an attempt to cut off Constantine's 
communications in Bithynia ; but the emperor left the camp 
before Constantinople, and, putting himself at the head of 
the troops in Asia, again defeated Niketas near Nicomedia. 
Niketas and the orthodox archbishop of Gangra were both 
taken prisoners. The belligerent prelate was immediately 
beheaded as a traitor ; but Niketas was carried to Constanti- 
nople, where he was exhibited before the walls laden with 
fetters. Artavasdos still rejected all terms of capitulation, 
and Constantine at last ordered a general assault, by which he 
reconquered his capital on the 2d November 743. Artavasdos 
escaped by sea to a fortress called Pyzanitis, in the Opsikian 
theme, where he was soon after taken prisoner. His eyes, 
and those of his sons, Nicephorus and Niketas, were put out ; 
and in this condition they were exhibited as a triumphal 
spectacle to the inhabitants of Constantinople, at the chariot 
races given by the emperor to celebrate his re-establishment 
on the throne. They were then immured in a monastery. 
Some of their principal adherents were beheaded. The head 
of Vaktageios, the principal minister of the usurper, was 
exhibited for three days in the August eon — a custom per- 
petuated by the Ottoman emperors in similar circumstances 
until our own times, the heads of rebel viziers having adorned 
the gate of the Serail during the reign of the late sultan^. 
The Patriarch Anastasios was pardoned, and allowed to 
remain in possession of his dignity^. Sisinnios, who had 

* Niceph. Pat. 40; Theoph. 352. 
' [i. e. Saltan Mahmud IL] 

* Theophanes (353) says that the patriarch's eyes were put out and that he was 
exposed to the insults of the mob in the circus, mounted on an ass, but the 
Patriarch Nicephorus, who, in a fragment preserved by Photius {Biblioik§ca, p. 86), 
has recapitulated all the misdeeds of Constantine with orthodox exaggeration, 
makes no mention of this treatment of his predecessor. Anastasios continued to 
occupy the patriarchal throne ten years after the taking of Constantinople, and 
died A.D, 753. There appears to be some accidental mistake in what Theophanes 


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commanded one division of the emperor's army, was soon 

found to be engaged in treasonable intrigues, and lost his 

eyes forty days after he entered the capital in triumph with 

his sovereign. 

Constantine no sooner found himself firmly established on 
the throne than he devoted his attention to completing the 
organization of the empire traced out by his father. The 
constant attacks of the Saracens and Bulgarians called him 
frequently to the head of his armies, for the state of society 
rendered it dangerous to intrust large forces to the command 
of a subject. In the Byzantine empire few individuals had 
any scruple of violating the political constitution of their 
country, if by so doing they could increase their own power. 

The incursions of the Saracens first required to be repressed. 
The empire of the caliphs was already distracted by the civil 
wars which preceded the fall of the Ommiad dynasty. Con- 
stantine took advantage of these troubles. He reconquered 
Germanicia and Doliche, and occupied for a time a consider- 
able part of Commagene ; but as he found it impossible to 
retain possession of the country, he removed the Christian 
population to Thrace, where he founded several flourishing 
colonies, long distinguished by their religious opinions from the 
surrounding population ; A.D. 746 ^ The Saracens attempted 
to indemnify themselves for these losses by the conquest of 
Cyprus. This island appears to have been reconquered by 
Leo III., for it had been abandoned to the Mohammedans by 
Justinian II. The fleet of the caliph sailed from Alexandria, 
and landed an army at the port of Kerameia \ but the fleet of 
the Kibyrraiot theme arrived in time to blockade the enemy's 
ships, and of a thousand Mohammedan vessels three only 
escaped ; A.D. 748. The war was continued. In 752 the 
imperial armies took the cities of Melitene and Theodosio- 
polis, but some years later the Caliph Al Mansour recovered 
Melitene and Germanicia : he seems, however, to have con- 
sidered the tenure of the last so insecure that he transported 

sa3rs with regard to Anastasios, for both he and Nicephoms recoant similar cir- 
cumstances as accompanjring the deposition and death of the successor of Anas- 
tasios, Constantinos 11. Theoph. 373 ; Niceph. Pat. 48. 

^ Theophanes (354) mentions that these colonists retained in his time the 
heretical addition to the Trisagion of Peter the Fuller, • O holy God I O holy 
Almighty I O holy Eternal, who was crucified for us!' Su Mosheim's EccUt, 
Biti. 1. 483, edit. Soames. 

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A.D. 741-775.] 

the inhabitants into Palestine. The Saracens invaded the 
empire almost every summer, but these incursions led to no 
permanent conquests. The agricultural population along the 
frontiers of the two empires must have been greatly dimi- 
nished during these successive ravages; for farm-buildings 
and fruit-trees were constantly destroyed, and slaves formed 
the most valuable booty of the soldiers. The mildness and 
tolerant government of the emperor of Romania (for that 
name b^^n now to be applied to the part of Asia Minor 
belonging to the Byzantine empire^) was so celebrated in 
the East, in spite of his persecution of the image-worshippers 
at Constantinople, that many Christians escaped by sea from 
the dominions of the Caliph Al Mansour to settle in those of 
Constantine*. In the year 769 an exchange of prisoners took 
place, but without interrupting the course of hostilities, which 
were continued almost incessantly on the frontiers of the two 
empires ^ 

The vicinity of the Bulgarians to Constantinople rendered 
them more dangerous enemies than the Saracens, though their 
power was much inferior. The Bulgarians were a people who 
looked on war as the most honourable means of acquiring 
wealth, and they had long pursued it with profit : for as long 
as the Byzantine frontiers were poputous, they obtained booty 
and slaves by their incursions ; while, as soon as they became 
depopulated by these ravages, the Bulgarians were enabled to 
occupy the waste districts with their own pastoral hordes, and 
thus increase their numbers and strength. To resist their 
incursions, Constantine gradually repaired all the fortifications 
of the towns on the northern frontier, and then commenced 
fortifying the passes, until the Bulgarians found their pre- 
datory incursions attended with loss instead of gain. Their 
king was now compelled to make the cause of the predatory 
bands a national question, and an embassy was sent to Con- 
stantinople to demand payment of an annual tribute, under 
the pretext that some of the fortifications erected to guard the 
passes were situated in the Bulgarian territory, but, in reality, 
to replace the loss of the plunder which had enabled many of 
the warlike Bulgarians to live in idleness and luxury. The 

* Theophanes uses Romania frequently in this sense. 
• Theoi*. 576. • ^Wrf. 374. 

E % - T 

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[Bk.I.Ch.1. §3. 

demands of the king were rejected, and he immediately invaded 

the empire with a powerful army. The Bulgarians carried 

their ravages up to the long wall ; but though they derived 

assistance from the numerous Sclavonian colonies settled in 

Thrace, they were defeated, and driven back into their own 

territory with great slaughter ; A.D. 757. 

Constantine carried on a series of campaigns, systematically 
planned, for the purpose of weakening the Bulgarian power. 
Instead of allowing his enemy to make any incursions into 
the empire, he was always ready to carry the war into their 
territory. The difficulties of his enterprise were great, and he 
suffered several defeats ; but his military talents and persever- 
ing energy prevented the Bulgarians from profiting by any 
partial success they obtained, and he soon regained the suj>e- 
riority. In the campaigns of 760, 763, and 765, Constantine 
marched far into Bulgaria, and carried off immense booty. 
In the year 766 he intended to complete the conquest of the 
country, by opening the campaign at the commencement of 
spring. His fleet, which consisted of two thousand six hun- 
dred vessels, in which he had embarked a considerable body 
of infantry in order to enter the Danube, was assailed by one 
of those furious storms that often sweep the Euxine. The 
force which the emperor expected would soon render him 
master of Bulgaria was suddenly ruined. The shores of the 
Black Sea were covered with the wrecks of his ships and the 
bodies of his soldiers. Constantine immediately abandoned 
all thought of continuing the campaign, and employed his 
whole army in alleviating the calamity to the survivors, and 
in securing Christian burial and funeral honours to the dead. 
A truce was concluded with the enemy, and the Roman 
army beheld the emperor as eager to employ their services in 
the cause of humanity and religion, as he had ever been to 
lead them in fields of blood and conquest. His conduct on 
this occasion gained him as much popularity with the people 
of Constantinople as with the troops \ 

In the year 774 he again assembled an army of eighty 
thousand men, accompanied by a fleet of two thousand trans- 

* Niceph. Pat 47; Theoph. 368. The great services and victories of Con- 
stantine in the Bulgarian war were acknowledged by posterity. L«o Diaconus, 
104, edit. Bonn. 

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ports, and invaded Bulgaria. The Bulgarian monarch con- 
cluded a treaty of peace — which, however, was broken as soon 
as Constantine returned to his capital. But the emperor was 
not unprepared, and the moment he heard that the enemy 
had laid siege to Verzetia, one of the fortresses he had con- 
structed to defend the frontier, he quitted Constantinople in 
the month of October, and, falling suddenly on the besiegers, 
routed their army with great slaughter. The following year 
his army was again ready to take the field ; but as Constan- 
tine was on his way to join it he was attacked by a mortal 
illness, which compelled him to retrace his steps. Having 
embarked at Selymbria, in order to reach Constantinople 
with as little fatigue as possible, he died on board the vessel 
at the castle of Strongyle, just as he reached the walls of his 
capital, on the 23rd September 775*. 

The long war with the Bulgarians was carried on rather 
with the object of securing tranquillity to the northern pro- 
vinces of the empire, than from any desire of a barren conquest. 
The necessity of reducing the Sclavonian colonies in Thrace 
and Macedonia to complete obedience to the central adminis- 
tration, and of secluding them from all political communica- 
tion with one another, or with their countrymen in Bulgaria, 
Servia, and Dalmatia, imposed on the emperor the necessity 
of maintaining strong bodies of troops, and suggested the 
policy of forming a line of Greek towns and Asiatic colonies 
along the northern frontier of the empire. When this was 
done, Constantine began to root out the brigandage, which 
had greatly extended itself during the anarchy which preceded 
his father's election, and which Leo had never been able to 
exterminate. Numerous bands lived by plunder, in a state 
of independence, within the bounds of the empire. They 
were called Skamars, and, like the Bagauds of Gaul, formed 
organized confederacies of outlaws, originally consisting of 
men driven to despair by the intolerable burden of taxation 

* Strongyle is the same with the Cyclobion or Seven Towers. Banduri, Imp, 
Orient, ii. 530, edit. Ven. ; Ducange, Comt, Christ. 45, I03. Magnaura was the 
western point of Constantinople (Zonaras, ii. 89) ; though the authority of Theo- 
phanes (.294) would place it at the Hebdomon. Another passage, however, 
corrects this (p. 331). and proves that both Magnaura and Cyclobion were without 
the chain which closed the port at the points of the triangle towards the Pro- 
pODtis. Ducange, Const, Christ. 127. Gyllius seems wrong; De Topog. Const, 
lib. IT. c 4. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.1. §5. 

and the severity of the fiscal legislation ^. When the incur- 
sions of the Bulgarians had wasted the fields of the cultivator, 
the government still called upon him to pay the full amount 
of taxation imposed on his estate in prosperous times: 
his produce, his cattle, his slaves, and his seed-corn were 
carried away by the imperial officers. He could then only 
live by plundering his feilow-subjects, who had hitherto 
escaped the calamities by which he had been ruined; and 
thus the oppression of the imperial government was avenged 
on the society that submitted to it without striving to reform 
its evils, Constantine rooted out these bands. A celebrated 
chief of the Skamars was publicly executed at Constantinople 
with the greatest barbarity, his living body being dissected by 
surgeons after the amputation of his hands and feet. The 
habitual barbarity of legal punishments in the Byzantine 
empire can hardly relieve the memory of Constantine from 
the reproach of cruelty, which this punishment proves he was 
ready to employ against the enemies of his authority, whether 
brigands or image-worshippers. His error, therefore, was not 
only passing laws against liberty of conscience — ^which was 
a fault in accordance with the spirit of the age — but in carry- 
ing these laws into execution with a cruelty ofi*ensive to 
human feelings. Yet on many occasions Constantine gave 
proofs of humanity, as well as of a desire to protect his 
subjects. The Sclavonians on the coast of Thrace, having 
fitted out some piratical vessels, carried off many of the 
inhabitants of Tenedos, Imbros, and Samothrace, to sell them 
as slaves. The emperor on this occasion ransomed two thou- 
sand five hundred of his subjects, preferring to lower his own 
dignity, by paying a tribute to the pirates, rather than allow 
those who looked to him for protection to pine away their 
lives in hopeless misery. No act of his reign shows so much 
real greatness of mind as this. He also concluded the con- 
vention with the Saracens for an exchange of prisoners, which 
has been already mentioned — one of the earliest examples of 
the exchanges between the Mohammedans and the Christians, 
which afterwards became frequent on the Byzantine frontiers. 
Man was exchanged for man, woman for woman, and child for 

' Compsu^ Ducange, Qlossarium Mtd, tt Infim. Latini/euis, s. v. Bagaudat, with 
WdUon, Hisioire de FEsclavagi dcms rAniiquUi, uL 387. 

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AJ>. 741-775.] 

child*. These conventions tended to save the lives of in- 
numerable prisoners, and rendered the future wars between 
the Saracens and Romans less barbarous. 

Constantine was active in his internal administration, and 
his schemes for improving the condition of the inhabitants of 
his empire were carried out on a far more gigantic scale than 
modem governments have considered practicable. One of his 
plans for reviving agriculture in uncultivated districts was by 
repeopling them with colonies of emigrants, to whom he 
secured favourable conditions and efficient protection. On 
the banks of the Artanes in Bithynia, a colony of two 
hundred thousand Sclavonians was formed^. The Christian 
population of Germanicia, Doliche, Melitene, and Theodosio- 
polis was established in Thrace, to watch and restrain the 
rude Sclavonians settled in that province ; and these Asiatic 
colonists long continued to flourish and multiply ^. They are 
even accused of spreading the heretical opinions which they 
had brought from the East throughout great part of western 
Europe, by the extent of their commercial relations and the 
example of then- prosperity and honesty *. It is not to be 
supposed that the measures of Constantine's administration, 
however great his political abilities might be, were competent 
to remove many of the social evils of his age. Agriculture 
was still carried on in the rudest manner ; and as communica- 
tions were difficult and insecure, and transport expensive, 
capital could hardly be laid out on land to any extent with 
much profit. As usual under such circumstances, we find 
years of famine and plenty alternating in close succes- 
sion. Yet the bitterest enemy of Constantine, the abbot 
Theophanes, confesses that his reign was one of general 
abundance. It is true, he reproaches him with loading the 
husbandmen with taxes; but he also accuses him of being 

' Theoph. 374.- At this time the slave-trade was very active, and the Venetians 
carried on a flourishing commerce in Christian slaves with the Mohammedans. 
Anastas. Dt Vii. Pont, Rom, 79 ; Episi. Hadriani, i. ep. xii. Even during the anarchy 
that prevailed in western Europe at the end of the seventh century, Roman slave- 
merchants imported slaves from Britain, as we know from the anecdote of St. 
Gregory, repeated by all our historians. 

• Niceph. Pat. 44 ; Theoph. 364. 

» Niceph. Pat 43 ; Theoph. 354, 360. 

* How fiir the Albigenses were indebted for their doctrines to these colonies 
is still a question. See Schmidt, Hiuoire $i Dociritu de la Stctt d*s Catharts ott 
AUngmU. 2 vols. 1849. 

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a new Midas, who made gold so common in the hands of all 
that it became cheap. The abbot's political economy, it must 
be confessed, is not so orthodox as his calumny. If the 
Patriarch Nicephorus, another enemy of Constantine, is to be 
believed, grain was so abundant, or gold so rare, that sixty 
measures of wheat, or seventy measures of barley, were sold 
for a nomisma, or gold byzant^. To guard against severe 
drought in the capital, and supply the gardens in its immediate 
vicinity with water, Constantine repaired the great aqueduct 
of Valens. The flourishing condition of the towns in Greece 
at the time is attested by the fact, that the best workmen in 
cement were sought in the Hellenic cities and the islands of 
the Archipelago '-*. 

The time and attention of Constantine, during his whole 
reign, were principally engaged in military occupations. In 
the eyes of his contemporaries he was judged 'by his military 
conduct. His strategic abilities and indefatigable activity 
were the most striking characteristics of his administration. 
His campaigns, his financial measures, and the abundance 
they created, were known to all ; but his ecclesiastical policy 
affected comparatively few. Yet by that policy his reign has 
been exclusively judged and condemned in modern times. 
The grounds of the condemnation are unjust. He has not, 
like his father, the merit of having saved an empire from ruin ; 
but he may claim the honour of perfecting the reforms planned 
by his father, and of re-establishing the military power of the 
Roman empire on a basis that perpetuated Byzantine supre- 
macy for several centuries. Hitherto historians have treated 
the events of his reign as an accidental assemblage of facts ; 
but surely, if he is to be rendered responsible for the persecu- 
tion of the image-worshippers, in which he took comparatively 
little part, he deserves credit for his military successes and 
prosperous administration, since these were the result of his 
constant personal occupation. The history of his ecclesiastical 
measures, however, really possesses a deep interest, for they 

" Niceph. Pat. 48 ; Theoph. 373. As a contrast to this cheapness, Theophanes 
(35a) mentions that a measure of barley was sold for twelve nomismata while 
Artavasdos was besieged in Constantinople. 

" Theoph. 371. Six thousand nine hundred workmen were employed. One 
thousand masons and two hundred plasterers were brought from Asia Minor and 
Pontus; five hundred workers in cement from Greece and the islands of the 
Archipelago ; five thousand labourers from Thrace, with two hundred potters. 

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^^ :4t-775.] 

reflect with accuracy the feelings and ideas of millions of 
his subjects, as well as of the emperor. 

Constantine was a sincere enemy of image-worship, and 
in his age sincerity implied bigotry, for persecution was 
considered both lawful and meritorious. Yet with all his 
energy, he was prudent in his first attempts to carry out 
his father's policy. While he was struggling with Artavasdos, 
and labouring to restore the discipline of his troops, and 
re-establish the military superiority of the Byzantine arms, 
he left the religious controversy concerning image-worship 
to the two parties of the clergy who then disputed for 
pre-eminence in the church. But when his power was 
consolidated, he steadily pursued his father's plans for cen- 
tralizing the ecclesiastical administration of the empire. To 
prepare for the final decision of the question, which probably, 
in his mind, related as much to the right of the emperor to 
govern the church, as to the question whether pictures were 
to be worshipped or not, he ordered the metropolitans and 
archbishops to hold provincial synods, in order to discipline 
the people for the execution of the edicts to which he pro- 
posed to obtain the sanction of a general council of the 
Eastern church ^. 

This general council was convoked at Constantinople in 
the year 754. It was attended by 338 bishops, forming the 
most numerous assembly of the Christian clergy which had 
ever been collected together for ecclesiastical legislation. 
Theodosius, metropolitan of Ephesus, son of the Emperor 
Tiberius III., presided, for the patriarchal chair had been 
kept vacant since the death of Anastasios in the preceding 
year. Neither the Pope nor the patriarchs of Antioch, 
Alexandria, and Jerusalem sent representatives to this council, 
which was solely composed of the Byzantine clergy, so that it 
had no right to assume the rank of an oecumenical council. 
Its decisions were all against image-worship, which it declared 
to be contrary to Scripture. It proclaimed the use of images 
and pictures in churches to be a pagan and antichristian 
practice, the abolition of which was necessary to avoid leading 
Christians into temptation. Even the use of the crucifix was 

* Theoph. 358 : /ifAeraw' atKivr la Ka$* ktcdarrjv ir6?<iv rdv \a6p (v€i$f vpbt rd 

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condemned, on the ground that the only true symbol of the 
incarnation was the bread and wine which Christ had com- 
manded to be received for the remission of sins. In its 
opposition to the worship of pictures, the council was led 
into the display of some animosity against painting itself; 
and every attempt at embodying sacred subjects by what it 
styled the dead and accursed art, foolishly invented by the 
pagans, was strongly condemned. The common people were 
thus deprived of a source of ideas^ which, though liable to 
abuse, tended in general to civilize their minds,- and might 
awaken noble thoughts and religious aspirations. We may 
fully agree with the Iconoclasts in the religious importance of 
not worshipping images, and not allowing the people to 
prostrate themselves on the pavements of churches before 
pictures of saints, whether said to be painted by human 
artists or miraculous agency; while at the same time we 
think that the walls of the vestibules or porticoes of sacred 
edifices may with propriety be adorned with pictures repre- 
senting those sacred subjects most likely to awaken feelings 
of Christian charity. It is by embodying and ennobling the 
expression of feelings common to all mankind, that modem 
artists can alone unite in their works that combination of 
truth with the glow of creative imagination which gives a 
divine stamp to many pagan works. There is nothing in 
the circle of human affairs so democratic as art. The Council 
of 754> however, deemed that it was necessary to sacrifice art 
to the purity of religion. * The godless art of painting ' was 
proscribed. All who manufactured crucifixes or sacred paint- 
ings for worship, in public or private, whether laymen or 
monks, were ordered to be excommunicated by the church 
and punished by the state. At the same time, in order to 
guard against the indiscriminate destruction of sacred build- 
ings and shrines possessing valuable ornaments and rich plate 
and jewels, by Iconoclastic zeal, or under its pretext, the 
council commanded that no alteration was to be made in 
existing churches, without the special permission of the 
patriarch and the emperor — a regulation bearing strong marks 
of the fiscal rapacity of the central treasury of the Roman 
empire. The bigotry of the age was displayed in the ana- 
thema which this council pronounced against three of the 
most distinguished and virtuous advocates of image-worship, 

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^^' 741-775O 

Germanos, the Patriarch of Constantinople, George of Cyprus, 
and John Damascenus, the last of the fathers of the Greek 
church ^. 

The ecclesiastical decisions of the council served as the 
basis for penal enactments by the civil power. The success 
of the emperor in restoring prosperity to the empire, induced 
many of his subjects to believe that he was destined to reform 
the church as well as the state, and few thinking men could 
doubt that corruption had entered deep into both. In many 
minds there was a contest between the superstitions of picture- 
worship and the feeling of respect for the emperor's admin- 
istration ; but there were still in the Roman empire many 
persons of education, unconnected with the church, who 
regarded the superstitions of the people with aversion. To 
them the reverence paid by the ignorant to images said to 
have fallen from heaven, to pictures painted by St. Luke, 
to viigins who wept, and to saints who supplied the lamps 
burning before their effigies with a perpetual fountain of oil, 
appeared rank idolatry ^ There were also still a few men of 
philosophic minds who exercised the right of private judgment 
on public questions, both civil and ecclesiastical, and who felt 
that the emperor was making popular superstition the pretext 
for rendering his power despotic in the church as in the state. 
His conduct appeared to these men a violation of those 
principles of Roman law and ecclesiastical legislation which 
rendered the systematic government of society in the Roman 
empire superior to the arbitrary rule of Mohammedan 
despotism, or the wild license of Gothic anarchy. The Greek 
church had not hitherto made it imperative on its members to 
worship images ; — it had o^ly tolerated popular abuse in the 
reverence paid to these symbols — so that the ignorant monks 
who resisted the enlightened Iconoclasts might, by liberal- 
minded men, be considered as the true defenders of the right 
of private judgment, and as benefactors of mankind. There 
is positive evidence that such feelings really existed, and they 
could not exist without producing some influence on society 

* The acts of this council are only known from the garbled portions preserved 
hf its enemies in the acts of the second council of Nicaea and the hostile historians. 
Coleti, Acta S. Conciliomm, torn. viii. p. 1457. 

• • At Athens is a church of the blessed Virgin Mary, which has a lamp that 
bums always, and never wanU oil.' Thi Travels of Satwu\f, 3a, in Early Travth in 
PaUuitu, Bohn's edit 


by Google 


[Bk.I.Ch.I. $3. 

generally. Less than forty years after the death of Constan- 

tine, the tolerant party was so numerous that it could struggle 

in the imperial cabinet to save heretics from persecution, on 

the ground that the church had no authority to ask that men 

should be condemned to death for matters of belief, as God 

may always turn the mind of the sinner to repentance. 

Theophanes has recorded the existence of these humane 

sentiments in his eagerness to blame them \ 

Many of the clergy boldly resisted the edicts of Constan- 
tine to enforce the new ecclesiastical legislation against 
images and pictures. They held that all the acts of the 
council of Constantinople were void, for a general council 
could only be convoked by an orthodox emperor ; and they 
took upon themselves to declare the opinions of Constantine 
heterodox. The monks engaged with eagerness in the 
controversy which arose. The Pope, the patriarchs of 
Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, replied to the excom- 
munications of the council by condemning all its supporters 
to eternal perdition. The emperor, enraged at the opposition 
he met with, enforced the execution of his edicts with all the 
activity and energy of his character ; his political as well as 
his religious views urged him to be a persecutor. It is evident 
that policy and passion were as much connected with his 
violence against the image-worshippers as religious feeling, 
for he treated many heretics with toleration who appeared 
to be quiet and inoffensive subjects, incapable of offering 
any opposition to his political and ecclesiastical schemes. The 
Theopaschites, the Paulicians, and the Monophysites enjoyed 
religious toleration during his whole reign ^ 

In the year 766 the edicts against image- worship were 
extended in their application, and enforced with additional 
rigour. The use of relics and the practice of praying to 
saints were prohibited. Many monks, and several members 
of the dignified clergy, were banished ; stripes,, loss of the 
eyes and of the tongue, were inflicted as legal punishments 
for prostration before a picture, or praying before a relic. 
Yet, even at this period of the greatest excitement, the 
emperor at times displayed great personal forbearance ; 

* Theoph. 419: Ibor^yJkTi^ov Z\ i^ftaBwi fxii i^ttyai Uptvair dwofcdy^cOcu teard 
datfi&v Bavarov, 
« Theoph. 354, 360. 

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^- 74«-7750 

when, however, either policy or passion prompted him to 
order punishment to be inflicted, it was done with fearful 
severity ^. 

Two cases may be mentioned as affording a correct elucida- 
tion of the personal conduct of Constantine. A hermit, 
named Andreas the Kalybite, presented himself before the 
emperor, and upbraided him for causing dissension in the 
church. * If thou art a Christian, why dost thou persecute 
Christians ? ' shouted the monk to his prince, with audacious 
orthodoxy. Constantine ordered him to be carried off to 
prison for insulting the imperial authority. He was then 
called upon to submit to the decisions of the general council ; 
and when he refused to admit the validity of its canons, and 
to obey the edicts of the emperor, he was tried and con- 
demned to death. After being scourged in the hippodrome, 
he was beheaded, and his body, according to the practice of 
the age, was cast into the sea. 

Stephen, the abbot of a monastery near Nicomedia, was 
banished to the island of Proconnesus, on account of his firm 
opposition to the emperor's edicts ; but his fame for piety 
drew numerous votaries to his place of banishment, who 
flocked thither to hear him preach. This assembly of seditious 
and pious persons roused the anger of the civil authorities, 
and Stephen was brought to Constantinople, to be more 
strictly watched. His eloquence still drew crowds to the door 
of his prison; and the reverence shown to him by his followers 
vexed the emperor so much, that he gave vent to his mortifi- 
cation by exclaiming — * It seems, in truth, that this monk is 
really emperor, and I am nothing in the empire.' This speech 
was heard by some of the officers of the imperial guard. Like 
that of Henry II. concerning Thomas-^-Becket, it caused the 
death of Stephen. He was dragged from his prison by some 
of the emperor's guard, and cruelly murdered. The soldiery 
and the people joined in dragging his body through the 
streets, and his unburied remains were left exposed in the 
place destined to receive those of the lowest criminals. Both 
Stephen and Andreas were declared martyrs, and rewarded 
with a place in the calendar of Greek saints ^. 

* Theoph. 370. Bonefidius (>i» Orientalt, 4) quotes this edict against relics 
from Cedrenns. Mortreuil, i. 549. 

• Their festiYal is celebrated on the aSth November, old style. Minoiogium 
Oraeconan Jussu Baalii Imp.^ 3 voU. foL, Urbini, 1727, voL i. ai6. 


by Google 



Orthodox zeal and party ambition combined to form a 
dangerous conspiracy against Constantine. Men of the 
highest rank engaged in the plot, and even the Patriarch 
Constantinos, though himself an Iconoclast, appears to have 
joined the conspirators. He was removed from the patri- 
archate, and the dignity was conferred on a Sclavonian 
prelate, named Niketas^. The deposed Patriarch was brought 
to trial and condemned to death. Constantinos, after his 
condemnation, and apparently with the hope of having his 
life spared, signed a declaration that he believed the worship 
of images to be idolatry, that the decrees of the council of 
Constantinople contained the true doctrines of the orthodox 
church, and that the faith of the emperor was pure- This 
last article was added because the patriarch was accused 
of having countenanced reports charging the emperor with 
heterodox opinions concerning the Virgin. If Constantinos 
expected mercy by his pliancy, he was mistaken. His sen- 
tence was carried into execution in the cruelest manner. The 
head of the Greek church was placed on an ass, with his face 
towards the tail, and conducted through the streets of the 
capital, while the mob treated him with every insult. On 
reaching the amphitheatre, his head was struck off. It may 
easily be supposed that, when the highest ecclesiastic in the 
empire was treated in this manner in the capital, the severity 
of the imperial agents in the distant provinces was often fear- 
fully tyrannical. 

The spirit of ecclesiastical bigotry which has so often led 
popes, princes, and Protestants to burn those who differed 
from them in matters of opinion, gave the image-worshippers 
as much fortitude to resist as it gave their opponents cruelty 
to persecute. The religious and political reforms of the 
Isaurian emperors were equally a subject of aversion to the 
Pope and the Italians ; and all the possessions of the emperors 
in central Italy had been rendered virtually independent, even 

^ Glycas (284) has preserved an anecdote which affords an amusing illustration 
of the fact that the Greek element m society at Constantinople was not yet the 
all-predominant. The Patriarch Niketas may have spoken Latin better than 
Greek, for there was something far from Hellenic in his accent and ideas. One 
day, reading the New Testament, he pronounced the name of the evangelist 
VlaT$6XWt and not Mar&aiov. One of his suite observed that the vowels 3 the 
diphthong were not to be separated. The Sclavonian patriarch, displeased at 
the correction, turned angrily round, and said, * Don't talk nonsense; my soul 
utterly abhors diphthongs and triphthongs T 

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ITALY. 6i 

A.D. 741-775.] 

before Constantine convoked the council of Constantinople. 
His stru^le with the Saracens and Bulgarians had prevented 
his making any effort in Italy. At Rome, however, the popes 
continued to acknowledge the civil and judicial supremacy of 
the emj^ror of the East, even after the Lombards had 
conquered the exarchate of Ravenna. But the impossibility 
of receiving any support from Constantine against the en- 
croachments of the Lombards, induced Pope Stephen II. 
to apply to Pepin of France for assistance. Pope Paul I. 
afterwards carried his eagerness to creatfe a quarrel between 
Pepin and Constantine so far, that he accused the emperor of 
hostile designs against Italy, which he was well aware Con- 
stantine had little time or power to execute^. Pepin, who 
was anxious to gain the aid of papal authority in his projects 
of usurpation, made a donation of the exarchate of Ravenna 
to the papal see in the year 755, though he had not the 
smallest right to dispose of it. The donation, however, sup- 
plied the Pope with a pretext for laying claim to the sove- 
reignty over the country; and there can be no doubt that the 
papal government was at this period very popular among the 
Italians^ for it secured them the administration of justice 
according to the Roman law, guaranteed to them a con- 
siderable d^ree of municipal independence, and permitted 
them to maintain their commercial relations with the Byzan- 
tine empire. The political dependence of many of the cities 
in central Italy, which escaped the Lombard domination, was 
not absolutely withdrawn from the empire of the East until 
a new emperor of the West was created, on the assumption of 
the imperial crown by Charlemagne, to whom the allegiance 
of the Italians, who threw off Constantine's authority, was at 
last transferred *. 

Some remarkable physical phenomena occurred during the 
reign of Constantine. An unnatural darkness obscured the 
sun from the loth to the 15th of August in the year 746. It 
terrified the inhabitants of Constantinople at the time it 
occurred ; and when the great pestilence broke out in the 
following year, it was regarded as a prognostic of that calamity. 
In the year 750, violent earthquakes destroyed whole towns 

» Codex Cardinus, ep. 34, 35. A.D. 758; Schlosser, 219. 
* Anastas. Dt Vitis Pont, Rom, loi, loa. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.I. §3. 

in Syria. In the month of October 763, a winter of singular 
severity commenced long before severe cold generally sets in 
at Constantinople. The Bosphorus was frozen over, and men 
passed on foot between Europe and Asia in several places- 
The Black Sea was covered with ice from the Palus Maeotis 
to Mesembria. When the thaw began in the month of Feb- 
ruary 764, immense mountains of ice were driven through 
the Bosphorus, and dashed with such violence against the 
walls of Constantinople as to threaten them with ruin. These 
icebergs were seventy feet in thickness; and Theophanes 
mentions that, when a boy, he mounted on one of them with 
thirty of his young companions ^ 

One calamity in the age of Constantine appears to have 
travelled over the whole habitable world ; this was the great 
pestilence, which made its appearance in the Byzantine 
empire as early as 745. It had previously carried off a con- 
siderable portion of the population of Syria, and the Caliph 
Yezid III. perished of tiie disease in 744. From Syria it 
visited Egypt and Africa, from whence it passed into Sicily. 
After making great ravages in Sicily and Calabria, it spread 
to Greece; and at last, in the year 749, it broke out with 
terrible violence in Constantinople, then probably the most 
populous city in the universe. It was supposed to have been 
introduced, and dispersed through Christian countries, by the 
Venetian and Greek ships employed in carrying 6n a contra- 
band trade in slaves with the Mohammedan nations, and it 
spread wherever commerce extended. Monemvasia, one of 
the great commercial cities at the time, received the con- 
tagion with the return of its trading vessels, and disseminated 
the disease over all Greece and the islands of the Archipelago. 
On the continent, this plague threatened to exterminate the 
Hellenic race. 

Historians have left us a vivid picture of the horrors of 
this fearful visitation, which show us that the terror it inspired 
disturbed the fabric of society. Strange superstitions pre- 
occupied men's minds, and annihilated every sense of duty. 
Some appeared to be urged by a demoniacal impulse to 
commit heinous but useless crimes, with the wildest reckless- 
ness. Small crosses of unctuous matter were supposed to 

* Theoph. 365. 

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appear suddenly, traced by an invisible hand on the clothes 
of persons as they were engaged in their ordinary pursuits ; 
examples were narrated of their having appeared suddenly 
visible to the eyes of the assembled congregation on the 
vestments of the priest as he officiated at the altar. The 
individual thus marked out was invariably assailed by the 
disease on his return home, and soon died. Crosses were 
constantly found traced on the doors and outer walls of build- 
ings ; houses, palaces, huts, and monasteries were alike marked. 
This was considered as an intimation that some of the inmates 
were ordered to prepare for immediate death. In the de- 
lirium of fear and the first paroxysms of the plague, many 
declared that they beheld hideous spectres wandering about ; 
these apparitions were seen flitting through the crowded 
streets of the city, at times questioning the passengers, at 
times walking into houses before the inmates, and then 
driving the proprietors from the door. At times it was said 
that these spectres had even attacked the citizens with naked 
swords. That these things were not reported solely on the 
delusion of the fancy of persons rendered insane by attacks 
of disease, is asserted by a historian who was bom about ten 
years later, and who certainly passed his youth at Constanti- 
nople'. The testimony of Theophanes is confirmed by the 
records of similar diseases in other populous cities. . The 
uncertainty of life offers additional chances of impunity to 
crime, and thus relaxes the power of the law and weakens 
the bonds of moral restraint. Danger is generally what man 
fears little, when there are several chances of escape. The 
bold and wicked, deriding the general panic, frequently make 
periods of pestilence times of revelry and plunder ; the very 
individuals charged as policemen to preserve order in society, 
finding themselves free from control, have been known to 
assume the disguise of demons, in order to plunder the 
terrified and superstitious with impunity. The predominant 
passions of all find full scope when the feeling of responsibility 
is removed ; shame is thrown aside, the most unfeeling avarice 
and the wildest debauchery are displayed. But, at the same 
time, it is on such fearful occasions that we see examples 
of the noblest courage, the most devoted self-sacrifice, and 

* Theoph. 355. He was born a.d. 758. 
VOL. II. F n \ 

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the purest charity. Boccaccio and Defoe, in describing the 
scenes which occurred at Florence in 1348, and at London in 
1665, afford a correct picture of what happened at Constanti- 
nople in 747. 

The number of dead was so great, that when the ordinary 
means of transporting the bodies to interment were insufficient, 
boxes were slung over the pack-saddles of mules, into which 
the dead were cast without distinction of rank. When the 
mules became insufficient, low chariots were constructed to 
receive piles of human bodies, and these frightful hearses 
were drawn through the streets to receive their loads, by 
a crowd of men who received a fixed sum of money with 
each body. Long trenches were prepared without the walls, 
to serve as graves for hundreds of bodies, and into these the 
aged beggar and the youthful noble were precipitated side by 
side. When all the cemeteries around the capital were filled, 
and the panic kept the mass of the population shut up in 
their dwellings, bodies were interred in the fields and vine- 
yards nearest to the city gates, or they were cast into vacant 
houses and empty cisterns. The disease prevailed for a year, 
and left whole houses tenantless, having exterminated many 
families ^ We possess no record of the number of deaths it 
caused, but if we suppose the population of Constantinople at 
the time to have exceeded a million, we may form an estimate 
of the probable loss it sustained, by observing that, during 
the great plague at Milan, in 1630, about eighty-six thousand 
persons perished in the course of a year, in a population 
hardly exceeding one hundred and fifty thousand souls *. 

After the plague had completely disappeared, the capital 
required an immense influx of new inhabitants. To fill up 
the void, Constantine induced many Greek families from the 
continent and the islands to emigrate to Constantinople. 
These new citizens immediately occupied a well-defined social 
position ; for whether artisans, tradesmen, merchants, or house- 
holders, they became members of established corporations, 
and knew how to act in their new relations of life without 
embarrassment. It was by the perfection of its corporate 

' Niceph. Pat. 43, 87. 

' Ripamonti, La PisH di Milano dd 1630, dal orinnal Latino da Francesco 
Cusani, Milano, 1841. At Florence, one hundred uousand are said to have 
died of the plague ; at London, ninety thousand. 

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AJ>. 741-775.] 

societies and police regulations, that the Byzantine empire 
effected the translocation of the inhabitants of whole cities 
and provinces, without misfortune or discontent. By modify- 
ing the fiscal severity of the Roman government, by relieving 
the members of the municipality from the ruinous obligation 
of mutual responsibility for the total amount of the land-tax, 
and by relaxing the laws that fettered children to the pro- 
fession or handicraft of their parents, the Byzantine adminis- 
tration infused new energy into an enfeebled social system. 
It still preserved, as an inheritance from Rome, an intimate 
knowledge of the practical methods of regulating the relative 
supplies of labour, food, and population in the manner least 
likely to inconvenience the government, though undoubtedly 
with little reference to the measures best calculated to advance 
the happiness of the people ^. 

This memorable pestilence produced as great changes in 
the provinces as in the capital. While the population of Con- 
stantinople lost much of its Roman character and traditions 
by the infusion of a large number of Greek emigrants, Greece 
itself lost also much of its Hellenic character and ancient 
traditions, by the departure of a considerable portion of its 
native middle classes for Constantinople, and the destruction 
of a large part by the plague itself. The middle classes 
of the Hellenic cities flocked to Constantinople, while an 
inferior class from the villages crowded to supply their place, 
and thus a general translocation of the population was effected; 
and though this emigration may have been confined principally 
to the Greek race, it must have tended greatly to separate the 
future traditions of the people from those of an earlier period. 
The Athenian or the Lacedaemonian who settled at Constan- 
tinople lost all local characteristics ; and the emigrants from 
the islands, who supplied their place at Athens and Lacedae- 
mon, mingled their traditions and dialect with the Attic and 
Doric prejudices of their new homes : ancient traditions were 
thus consigned to oblivion. The depopulation on the con- 
tinent and in the Peloponnesus was also so great that the 
Sclavonian population extended their settlements over the 
greater part of the open country; the Greeks crowded into 

' For the Byzantine system of taxation, as fer as direct payment bv the indi- 
vidual is concerned, see Zonaras, ii. 224; Cedrenus, 706-723 ; Mortreuil, iii. 105. 

Fa - T 

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the towns, or into the districts immediately under the protec- 
tion of their walls. The Sclavonian colonies, which had been 
gradually increasing ever since the reign of Heraclius, attained 
at this time their greatest extension ; and the depopulation 
caused by this pestilence is said by the Emperor Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus, who wrote two centuries later, to have been 
so great, that the Sclavonians occupied the whole of the open 
country in Greece and the Peloponnesus, and reduced it to a 
state of barbarism ^ The emperor perhaps confounded in 
some degree the general translocation of the Greek population 
itself with the occupation of extensive districts, then aban- 
doned to Sclavonian cultivators and herdsmen. It is certain, 
however, that from this time the oblivion of the ancient 
Hellenic names of villages, districts, rivers, and mountains 
became general ; and the final extinction of those dialects, 
which marked a direct affiliation of the inhabitants of par- 
ticular spots with the ancient Hellenic population of the same 
districts, was consummated. The new names which came 
into use, whether Sclavonian or Greek, equally mark the loss 
of ancient traditions *. 

In closing the history of the reig^ of Constantine V., it is 
necessary to observe that he deserves praise for the care with 
which he educated his family. The most bigoted image- 
Worshippers inform us that he was so mild in his domestic 
circle that he permitted his third wife to protect a nun named 
Anthusa, who was a most devoted worshipper of images ; and 
one of the emperor's daughters received from this nun both 
her name and education. The Princess Anthusa was dis- 
tinguished for her benevolence and piety; she is said to have 
founded one of the first orphan asylums established in the 
Christian world; and her orthodox devotion to pictures 
obtained for her a place among the saints of the Greek church, 
an honour granted also to her godmother and teacher^. 

' D* Thematibus, ii. 25. 

• Strabonis Epitorm, edit. AlmeloYeen, 1251-1261; edit. Coray, torn. iii. 373- 

• Mtnoiogium Oraecorum^ torn. iii. 60-183. The fiestival of Constantine's daugh- 
ter was celebrated on the xyth April, and that of the nun Anthusa on the 27th 

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LEO IV. 69 

Aj>. 775-802.] 

Sect. IV. — Reigns of Leo IV. {the Khazar\ Constantine F/., 
and Irene ^ A.D. 775-802. 

l«o rV., A,D. 775-780. — Irene regent for her son. — Restores image-worship. — 
Second Council Qf Nicaea. — Extinction of Byzantine authority at Rome. — 
Constantine assumes the government. — Divorces Maria and marries Theodota. 
— Opposition of monks. — Persecution of Theodore Studita. — Irene dethrones 
Constantine VI. — Policy of reigns of Constantine VI. and Irene. — Saracen 
war. — ^Bulgarian war. 

Leo IV. succeeded his father at the age of twenty-five. 
His mother, Irene, was the daughter of the emperor or chagan 
of the Khazars, then a powerful people, through whose terri- 
tories the greater paw-t of the commercial intercourse between 
the Christians and the rich countries in eastern Asia was 
carried on. Leo inherited from his mother a mild and 
amiable disposition ; nor does he appear to have been desti- 
tute of some portion of his father's talents, but the state of his 
health prevented him from displaying the same activity. His 
reign lasted four years and a half, and his administration was 
conducted in strict accordance with the policy of his father 
and g^ndfather. The weak state of his health kept the 
public attention fixed on the question of the imperial succes- 
sion. Constantine V. had selected an Athenian lady, of great 
beauty and accomplishments, named Irene, to be his son's 
wife, and Leo had a son named Constantine, who was bom in 
the year 771. The indefinite nature of the imperial succes- 
sion, and the infancy of Leo's child, gave the two half-brothers 
of the emperor, who had been invested by their father with 
the rank of Caesar, some hope of ascending the throne on 
their brother's death. Leo conferred on his infant son the 
title of Emperor, in order to secure his successiort ; and this 
was done in a more popular manner than usual, at the express 
desire of the senate, in order to give the ceremony all the 
character of a popular election. The young emperor's five 
uncles — the two Caesars, and three who bore the title of 
Nobilissimi — were compelled to take the same oath of alle- 
giance as the other subjects ^ Yet shortly after this the elder 

* Thcoph. 380; Zonaras, ii. 114, where the popular character of the assembly 
is expressly pointed out: Ra2 &yuoaav Avavrti olx o^ '*'!* Xvynk^rov fiov\rj$ tcai 
oi TW arpanvfiaroi yulwoVy iXKh. xot b ^yMi\% ^x^o* *^ l^fiwopoi ical ot rSiv ipyaC' 
-nfpUt^ wpo€irrfiMfaay, ledt tyypfupa wtpl roiioav i^i0tvTo. This mention of the 
corporation of artisans is curious. 

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Caesar, Nicephorus, formed a conspiracy to render himself 

master of the government. Leo, who felt that he was rapidly 

sinking into the grave, referred the decision of his brother's 

guilt to a Silention, which condemned all the conspirators to 

death. Nicephorus was pardoned, but his partisans were 

scourged and banished to Cherson. The death of Leo IV. 

happened on the 8th of September 780 \ 

Constantine was ten years old when his father died, so that 
the whole direction of the empire devolved on his mother, 
Irene, who had received the imperial crown from Constantine 
V. ; for that emperor seems to have felt that the weak state of 
Leo's health would require the assistance of Irene's talents. 
The virtues Irene had displayed in a private station were 
insufficient to resist the corrupting influence of irresponsible 
power. Ambition took possession of her whole soul, and it 
was the ambition of reigning alone, not of reigning well. The 
education of her son was neglected — perhaps as a means of 
securing her power; favour was avowedly a surer road to 
preferment than long service, so that the court became a 
scene of political intrigue, and personal motives decided most 
public acts. As no organ of public opinion possessed the 
power of awakening a sense of moral responsibility among 
the officers of state, the intrigues of the court ended in 
conspiracies, murder, and treason. 

The parties struggling for power soon ranged themselves 
under the banners of the ecclesiastical factions that had long 
divided the empire. Little, probably, did many of the leaders 
care what party they espoused in the 'religious question ; but 
it was necessary to proclaim themselves members of an eccle- 
siastical faction in order to secure a popular following. The 
Empress Irene was known to favour image-worship : as a 
woman and a Greek, this was natural \ yet policy would have 
dictated to her to adopt that party as the most certain manner 
of securing support powerful enough to counterbalance the 

* I doubt whether the authority of Cedrenus (469), negatived by the siloice of 
earlier zealots, can authorise our believing the anecdote that the Emperor Leo 
discovered pictures of saints under Irene's pillow, and quarrelled with her in 
eonsequence ; nor do I think the story of his having taken one of the crowns 
from the church of St. Sophia of any importance, since it could not have been the 
cause of his death. Divine vengeance certainlv did not visit Leo with sudden 
death, whether he took the crown from St. Sophia's or not. See the torn Con- 
stantine Pori^yrogenitus gives the anecdote ; Be Adm. Imp. 64. 


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family influence of the Isaurian dynasty, which was now 
wielded by the uncles of the young emperor. The conflict 
between the image-worshippers and the Iconoclasts soon com- 
menced. The Caesar Nicephorus, who was as ambitious as 
his sister-in-law, was eager to drive her from the regency. 
He organized a conspiracy, in which several ministers and 
members of the senate took part. Irene obtained full proof 
of all its ramifications before the conspirators were prepared 
to act, seized her five brothers-in-law, and compelled them to 
enter the priesthood. In order to make it generally known 
that they had assumed the sacerdotal character, they were 
obliged to officiate during the Christmas ceremonies at the 
high altar of St Sophia's, while the young emperor and his 
mother restored to the church the rich jewels of which it had 
been deprived by the preceding emperors. The intendant- 
general of posts, the general of the Armeniac theme, the 
commander of the imperial guard, and the admiral of the 
Archipelago, who had all taken part in the conspiracy, were 
scourged and immured as monks in distant monasteries. 
Elpidios, the governor of Sicily, assumed the title of emperor 
as soon as he found that his participation in the plot was 
known at court ; but he was compelled to seek shelter among 
the Saracens, in whose armies he afterwards served. Nice- 
phorus Doukas, another conspirator, fled to the Mohamme- 
dans \ Some years later, when Constantine VI. had assumed 
the government into his own hands, a new conspiracy was 
formed by the partisans of his uncles (a.D. 79a). The princes 
were then treated with great severity. The Caesar Nice- 
phorus was deprived of sight ; and the tongues of the others 
were cut out, by the order of their nephew, not long before he 
lost his own eyes by the order of his mother. 

The influence of the clergy in the ordinary administration 
of justice, and the great extent to which ecclesiastical legisla- 
tion r^^lated civil rights, rendered councils of the church an 
important feature in those forms and usages that practically 
circumscribed the despotic power of the emperor by a frame- 
work of customs, opinions, and convictions which he could 

* Theoph. 383, 384. Theophylactos, Bon of RhangaW. was the admiral of the 
Archipelago, or Dningarios of Dodclomesos. This is the earliest mention of the 
twelve islands as a geographical and administrative division of the empire. It 
was retained by the Cm^iders when they conquered Greece. 

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with difficulty alter, and rarely oppose without danger. The 
political ambition of Irene, the national vanity of the Greeks, 
and the religious feelings of the orthodox, required the sanction 
of a constitutional public authority, before the laws against 
image-worship could be openly repealed. The Byzantine 
empire had at this time an ecclesiastical, though not a 
political constitution. The will of th6 sovereign was alone 
insufficient to change an organic law, forming part of the 
ecclesiastical administration of the empire. It was necessary 
to convoke a general council to legalize image-worship ; and 
to render such a council a fit instrument for the proposed 
revolution, much arrangement Was necessary. No person was 
ever endued with greater talents for removing opposition and 
conciliating personal support than the empress. The Patri- 
arch Paul, a decided Iconoclast, was induced to resign, and 
declare that he repented of his hostility to image-worship, 
because it had cut off the church of Constantinople from 
communion with the rest of the Christian world. This 
declaration pointed out the necessity of holding a general 
council, in order to re-establish that communion. The crisis 
required a new Patriarch of stainless character, great ability, 
and perfect acquaintance with the party connections and 
individual characters of the leading bishops. No person could 
be selected from among the dignitaries of the church, who 
had been generally appointed by Iconoclast emperors. The 
choice of Irene fell on a civilian. Tarasios, the chief 
secretary of the imperial cabinet — a man of noble birth, 
considerable popularity, and a high reputation for learning 
and probity — was suddenly elevated to be the head of the 
Greek church, and allowed to be not unworthy of the high 
rank. The orthodox would probably have raised a question 
concerning the legality of nominating a layman, had it not 
been evident that the objection would favour the interests of 
their opponents. The empress and her advisers were not 
bold enough to venture on an irretrievable declaration in 
favour of image-worship, until they had obtained a public 
assurance of popular support. An assembly of the inhabi- 
tants of the capital was convoked in the palace of Magnaura, 
in order to secure a majority pledged to the cause of Tarasios. 
The fact that such an assembly was considered necessary, is a 
strong proof that the strength of the rival parties was very 

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AJ>. 775-802.] 

nearly balanced, and that this manifestation of public opinion 
was required in order to relieve the empress from personal 
responsibility. Irene proposed to the assembly that Tarasios 
should be elected Patriarch, and the proposal was received 
with general acclamation. Tarasios, however, refused the 
dignity, declaring that he would not acce^ the Patriarchate 
unless a general council should be convoked for restoring unity 
to the church. The convocation of a council was adopted, 
and the nomination of Tarasios ratified. Though great care 
had been taken to fill this assembly with image-worshippers, 
nevertheless several dissentient voices made themselves heard, 
protesting against the proceedings as an attack on the exist- 
ing legislation of the empire \ 

The Iconoclasts were still strong in the capital, and the 
opposition of the soldiery was excited by the determination 
of Tarasios to re-establish image-worship. They openly 
declared that they would not allow a council of the church to 
be held, nor permit the ecclesiastics of their party to be 
unjustly treated by the court. More than one tumult warned 
the empress that no council could be held at Constantinople. 
It was found necessary to disperse the Iconoclastic soldiery in 
distant provinces, and form new cohorts of guards devoted to 
the court, before any steps could be publicly taken to change 
the laws of the church. The experience of Tarasios as a 
minister of state was rtiorc useful to Irene during the first 
period of his patriarchate than his theological learning. It 
required nearly three yearis to smooth the way for the 
meeting of the council, which was at length held at Nicaea, 
in September 787. Three hundred and sixty-seven members 
attended, of whom, however, not a few were abbots and 
monks, who assumed the title of confessors from having been 
ejected from their monasteries by the decrees of the Icono- 
clast sovereigns. Some of the persons present deserve to be 
particularly mentioned, for they have individually conferred 
greater benefits on mankind by their learned labours, than they 
rendered to Christianity by their zealous advocacy of image- 
worship in this council. The secretary of the two commis- 
sioners who represented the imperial authority was Nicephorus 
the historian, subsequently Patriarch of Constantinople ^. His 

* Theoph. 386; Colcti, Acta S, Coneiliorum, viii. 677; Schlosser, 278. 

• Nicephonis was Patriarch firom 806 to 815 ; he died in 828. 

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sketch of the history of the empire, from the year 6oa to 
770, is a valuable work, and indicates that he was a man of 
judgment, whenever his perceptions were not obscured by 
theological and ecclesiastical prejudices. Two other eminent 
Byzantine writers were also present. George, called Syn- 
cellus, from the oftce he held under the Patriarch Tarasios. 
He has left us a chronological work, which has preserved the 
knowledge of many important facts recorded by no other 
ancient authority '. Theophanes, the friend and companion 
of the Syncellus, has continued this work ; and his chrono- 
graphy of Roman and Byzantine history, with all its faults, 
forms the best picture of the condition of the empire that 
we possess for a long period. Theophanes enjoyed the 
honour of becoming, at a later day, a confessor in the cause 
of image-worship ; he was exiled from a monastery which 
he had founded, and died in the island of Samothrace, 
A.D. 8172. 

The second council of Nicaea had no better title than the 
Iconoclast council of Constantinople to be regarded as a 
general council of the church. The Pope Hadrian, indeed, 
sent deputies from the Latin church ; but the churches of 
Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, whose patriarchs were 
groaning under the government of the caliphs, did not dare to 
communicate with foreign authorities. An attempt was 
nevertheless made to deceive the world into a belief that they 
were represented, by allowing two monks from Palestine to 
present themselves as the syncelli of these patriarchs, without 
scrutinizing the validity of their credentials. Pope Hadrian, 
though he sent deputies, wrote at the same time to Tarasios, 
making several demands tending to establish the ecclesias- 
tical supremacy of the papal See, and complaining in strong 
terms that the Patriarch of Constantinople had no right to 
assume the title of oecumenic. The hope of recovering the 
estates of the patrimony of St. Peter in the Byzantine pro- 
vinces, which had been sequestrated by Leo HL, and of 
re-establishing the supremacy of the See of Rome, made 

* George Syncellus died in 800. His chronography extends from Adam to 

* The chronography of Theophanes extends from Diocletian, a.d. 285, to a.d. 
813. It is the best authority for Byzantine history after the time of Leo III. 
His life, by Theodoriis, abbot of Studion in Constantinople, is prefixed to the 
editions of the chronography. 

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Hadrian overlook much that was offensive to papal 
pride ^. 

The second council of Nicaea authorized the worship of 
images as an orthodox practice. Forged passages, pretending 
to be extracts from the earlier fathers, and genuine quotations 
from the modern, were cited in favour of the practice. 
Simony was already a prevailing evil in the Greek church. 
Many of the bishops had purchased their sees, and most of 
these naturally preferred doing violence to their opinions 
rather than lose their revenues. From this cause, unanimity 
was easily obtained by court influence. The council decided, 
that not only was the cross an object of reverence, but also 
that the images of Christ and the pictures of the Virgin 
Mary — of angels, saints, and holy men, whether painted in 
colours, or worked in embroidery in sacred ornaments, or 
formed in mosaic in the walls of churches — ^were all lawful 
objects of worship. At the same time, in order to guard 
against the accusation of idolatry, it was declared that the 
worship of an image, which is merely a sign of reverence, 
must not be confounded with the adoration due only to God. 
The council of Constantinople held in 754 was declared 
heretical, and all who maintained its doctrines, and con- 
demned the use of images, were anathematized. The patri- 
archs Anastasios, Constantinos, and Niketas were especially 
doomed to eternal condemnation. 

The Pope adopted the decrees of this council, but he 
refused to confirm them officially, because the empress 
delayed restoring the estates of St. Peter's patrimony. In 
the countries of western Europe which had formed parts of 
the Western Empire, the superstitions of the image-wor- 
shippers were viewed with as much dissatisfaction as the 
fanaticism of the Iconoclasts ; and the council of Nicaea was 
as much condemned as that of Constantinople by a large 
body of enlightened ecclesiastics. The public mind in the 
West was almost as much divided as in the East ; and if a 
general council of the Latin church had been assembled, its 
unbiassed decisions would probably have been at variance 
with those supported by the Pope and the council of Nicaea. 

* Schlosser, 279; Colcti, Acta S, Conciliorum, viiL 748; Ncandcr, iii. aaS (Tor- 
Tcfs translation). 

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Charlemagne published a refutation of the doctrines of this 
council on the subject of image-worship. His work, called the 
Caroline Books, consists of four parts, and was certainly 
composed under his immediate personal superintendence, 
though he was doubtless incapable of writing it himself^. 
At all events, it was published as his composition. This 
work condemns the superstitious bigotry of the Greek image- 
worshippers in a decided manner, while at the same time it 
only blames the misguided zeal of the Iconoclasts. Altogether, 
it is a very remarkable production, and gives a more cor- 
rect idea of the extent to which Roman civilization still 
survived in Western society, and counterbalanced ecclesias- 
tical influence, than any other contemporary document *. In 
794 Charlemagne assembled a council of three hundred 
bishops at Frankfort ; and, in the presence of the papal 
legates, this council maintained that pictures ought to be 
placed in churches, but that they should not be worshipped, 
but only regarded with respect, as recalling more vividly to 
the mind the subjects represented ^. The similarity existing 
at this time in the opinions of enlightened men throughout 
the whole Christian world must be noted as a proof that 
general communications and commercial intercourse still 
afforded mediums for pervading society with common senti- 
ments. The dark night of mediaeval ignorance and local 

* The title of the first edition is 0pm illust. Viri Caroli Magm Regis Franeontm 
etc, contra Synodum quae in Partibus Graeeiae pro adorandis Imaginihus stolide uv€ 
arro^anter geUa est. Sec. 1549. i6mo. It was published by Jean du Tillet (Eli 
Phili), afterwards bishop of Meaax. There is an edition, with a learned preface, 
by Christopher A. Heumann, Hanover, 1731. 8vo. Alcuin, of course, deserves 
all the credit due to the literary jtnd theological merits of the Caroline Books. 

' Charlemagne mentions that he had learned from his ambassadors, that though 
the Greeks expended large sums on decorations and paintings, they allowed their 
churches to fall to ruin; and he contrasts the magnificent endowments of the 
Frank churches with the meanness of the Greek. It is really surprising how few 
churches of any size appear to have been constructed in the Byzantine empire, 
when we remember that for many centuries it was the richest country in the 
world, and the one most occupied with ecclesiastical affairs and church ceremonies. 
Several small Byzantine churches at Athens are said to have been constructed 
by Irene j common tradition satys twelve. A few exfst ; some were destroyed 
during the war of the Revolution ; others were swept away by the Bavarian plans 
of the town. 

• The council of Frankfort blames that of Nicaea for inculcating the worship 
of images ; but that council really draws a distinction between the reverence it 
inculcates, rtfirjntc^ vpotrKiivrjais, and the devotion it condemns, Xarptla. This 
distinction — to which, of course, the people paid no attention — serves the Greek 
church as a defence against the accusation of idolatrous practice. For the 
opinions of the British clergy on the question, see Spelman, Concilia Magna§ 
Britannias, i. 73. 

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prejudices had not yet settled on the West ; nor had feudal 
anarchy confined the ideas and wants of society to the narrow 
sphere of provincial interests. The aspect of public opinion 
alarmed Pope Hadrian, whose interests required that the 
relations of the West and East should not become friendly. 
His position, however, rendered him more suspicious of Con- 
stantine and Irene, in spite of their orthodoxy, than of 
Charlemagne, with all his heterodox ideas. The Frank 
monarch, though he differed in ecclesiastical opinions, was 
sure to be a political protector. The Pope consequently 
laboured to foment the jealousy that reigned between the 
Frank and Byzantine governments concerning Italy, where 
the commercial relations of the Greeks still counterbalanced 
the military influence of the Franks. When writing to 
Charlemagne, he accused the Greeks and their Italian 
partisans of every crime likely to arouse the hostility of the 
Franks. They were reproached, and not unjustly, with 
carrying on an extensive trade in slaves, who were purchased 
in western Europe, and sold to the Saracens. The Pope knew 
well that this commerce was carried on in all the trading 
cities of the West, both by Greeks and Latins; for slaves 
then constituted the principal article of European export to 
Africa, Syria, and Egypt, in payment of the produce of the 
East, which was brought from those countries. The Pope 
seized and burnt some Greek vessels at Centumcellae (Civita- 
Vecchia), because the crews were accused of kidnapping the 
people of the neighbourhood. The violent expressions of 
Hadrian, in speaking of the Greeks, could not fail to produce 
a great effect in western Europe, where the letters of the 
popes formed the literary productions most generally read and 
studied by all ranks \ His calumnies must have sunk deep 
into the public mind, and tended to impress on Western 
nations that aversion to the Greeks, which was subsequently 
increased by mercantile jealousy and religious strife. 

The extinction of the last traces of the supremacy of the 
Eastern Empire at Rome was the most gratifying result of 

' Hadriani I. Epht. 12,13. * Nefandissimi Neapolitan! et Deo odibiles Graeci ;* 
Scfalofiser, a6a. Pope Stephen III. had given au example of national calumny. 
He wrote to Charlemagne, * Perfida et foetentissima Langobardorum gens — quae 
in numero gentium nequaquam computatur, de cujus natione et leprosorum genus 
oriri certum est.* It is a task of difficulty to extract impartial history from the 
records of an age when the head of the Christian church used such language. 


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their machinations to the popes. On Christmas day, A.D. 
800, Chariemagne revived the existence of the Western 
Empire, and received the imperial crown from Pope Leo III. 
in the church of St. Peter. Hitherto the Frank monarch 
had acknowledged a titular supremacy in the Eastern Empire, 
and had borne the title of Patrician of the Roman empire, as 
a mark of dignity conferred on him by the emperors of Con- 
stantinople ; but he now raised himself to an equality with the 
emperors of the East, by assuming the title of Emperor of the 
West. The assumption of the title of emperor of the Romans 
was not an act of idle vanity. Roman usages, Roman pre- 
judices, and Roman law still exercised a powerful influence 
over the minds of the most numerous body of Charlemagne's 
subjects; and by all the clergy and lawyers throughout his 
dominions the rights and prerogatives of the Roman emperors 
of the West were held to be legally vested in his person by the 
fact of his election, such as it was, and his coronation by the 
Pope. The political allegiance of the Pope to the emperor, 
which was then undisputed, became thus transferred from 
the emperor of the East to the emperor of the West, as a 
matter of course ; while the papal rights of administration 
over the former exarchate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the 
dukedom of Rome, acquired, under the protection of the 
Franks, the character of a decided sovereignty. Many towns 
of Italy at this time acquired a degree of municipal inde- 
pendence which made them almost independent republics. 
The influence of Roman law in binding society together, the 
military weakness of the papal power, and the rapid decline of 
the central authority in the empire of the Franks, enabled 
these towns to perpetuate their peculiar constitutions and 
independent jurisdictions down to the French Revolution ^ 

A female regency in an absolute government must always 
render the conduct of public affairs liable to be directed by- 
court intrigues. When Irene wished to gain Charlemagne as 
an ally, in order to deprive the Iconoclasts of any hope of 
foreign assistance, she had negotiated a treaty of marriage 
between her son and Rotrud, the eldest daughter of the Frank 
monarch, A.D. 781. But when the question of image-worship 

* Niebuhr's History of Rome, from the First Pume War to the Death qf Constantmt^ 
by L. Schmitz, i. 424 (vol. ii. oi Lectures on the History of Rome), 

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was settled, she began to fear that this alliance might become 
the means of excluding her from power, and she then broke 
off the treaty, and compelled her son to marry a Paphlagonian 
lady of the court named Maria, whom the young emperor 
soon regarded with aversion. Constantine, however, submitted 
quietly to his mother's domination until his twentieth year. 
He then b^^n to display dissatisfaction at the state of 
tutelage in which he was held, and at his complete seclusion 
from pubKc business. A plan was formed by many leading 
men in the administration to place him at the head of affairs, 
but it was discovered before it was ripe for execution. Irene 
on this occasion displayed unseemly violence, in her eagerness 
to retain a power she ought immediately to have resigned. 
The conspirators were seized, scourged, and banished. When 
her son was conducted into her presence, she struck him, and 
overwhelmed him with reproaches and insults. The young 
emperor was then confined so strictly in the palace that all 
communication with his friends was cut off. 

This unprincipled conduct of the regent-mother became the 
object of general reprobation. The troops of the Armeniac 
theme refused to obey her orders, and marched to the capital 
to deliver Constantine. On the way they were joined by 
other legions, and Irene found herself compelled to release her 
son, who immediately hastened to the advancing army. A 
total revolution was effected at court. The ministers and 
creatures of Irene were removed from office, and some who 
had displayed particular animosity against Constantine were 
scourged and beheaded ^ Constantine ruled the empire for 
about six years (a.D. 790-797). But his education had been 
neglected in a disgraceful manner, and his mind was perhaps 
naturally fickle. Though he displayed the courage of his 
family at the head of his army, his incapacity for business, 
and his inconstancy in his friendships, soon lost him the 
supix>rt of his most devoted partisans. He lost his popu- 
larity by putting out the eyes of his uncle, Nicephorus, and 
cutting out the tongues of his four uncles, who were accused 
of having taken part in the plots of their brother. He 
alienated the attachment of the Armenian troops by putting 
out the eyes of their general, Alexis Mouselen, who had been 

^ Theoph. 393. 

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the means of delivering him from confinement. The folly of 

this last act was even greater than the ingratitude, for it was 

done to gratify the revengeful feelings of his mother. These 

acts of folly, cruelty, and ingratitude destroyed his influence, 

and induced his sincerest friends to make their peace with 

Irene, whom it was evident her son would ultimately allow to 

rule the empire. 

The unhappy marriage into which Constantine had been 
forced by his mother, she at last converted into the cause of 
his ruin. The emperor fell in love with Theodota, one of his 
mother's maids of honour, and determined to divorce Maria in 
order to marry her. Irene, whose ambition induced her to 
stoop to the basest intrigues, flattered him in this project, 
as it seemed likely to increase her influence and ruin his 
reputation. The Empress Maria was induced to retire into 
a monastery, and the emperor expected to be able to cele- 
brate his marriage with Theodota without difficulty. But the 
usage of the Byzantine empire required that the Patriarch 
should pronounce the sentence of divorce, and this Tarasios, 
who was a devoted partisan and active political agent of Irene, 
long refused to do. The imprudence of Constantine, and the 
insidious advice of Irene, soon involved the emperor in a dis- 
pute with the whole body of monks, who had an overwhelming 
influence in society. The Patriarch at last yielded to the 
influence of Irene, so far as to allow his catechist to give the 
veil to the Empress Maria, whom he pronounced divorced, 
and then to permit the celebration of the emperor's marriage 
with Theodota by Joseph, one of the principal clergy of the 
patriarchal chapter, and abbot of a monastery in the capital ^. 

In the Byzantine empire at this time, constant religious 
discussions, and pretensions to superior sanctity, had intro- 
duced a profound religious spirit into the highest ranks of 
society. Numbers of the wealthiest nobles founded monas- 
teries, into which they retired. The manners, the extensive 
charity, and the pure morality of these abbots, secured them 
the love and admiration of the people, and tended to dis- 
seminate a hif;her standard of morality than had previously 
prevailed in Constantinople. This fact must not be over- 
looked in estimating the various causes which led to the 

* Theoph. 397. 

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Aj>. 775-8oa.] 

regeneration of the Eastern Empire under the Iconoclast 
emperors. Security of life and property, and all the founda- 
tions of national prosperity, are more closely connected with 
moral purity than the ruling classes are inclined to allow. 
It may not be quite useless, as an illustration of the state 
of the Byzantine empire, to remind the reader of the violence, 
injustice, and debauchery which prevailed at the courts of the 
west of Europe, including that of Charlemagne. While the 
Poi)e winked at the disorders in the palace of Charlemagne, 
the monks of the East prepared the public mind for the 
dethronement of Constantine, because he obtained an illegal 
divorce, and formed a second marriage. The corruption of 
morals, and the irr^ularities prevalent in the monasteries 
of the West, contrast strongly with the condition of the 
Eastern monks \ 

The habit of building monasteries as a place of retreat, 
adopted by some from motives of piety, was also adopted 
by others as a mode of securing a portion of their wealth 
from confiscation, in case of their condemnation for political 
crimes, peculiar privileges being reserved in the monasteries 
so founded for members of the founder's family 2. At this 
time Plato, abbot of the monastery of Sakkoudion, on Mount 
Olympus in Bithynia, and his nephew Theodore, who was 
a relation of the new Empress Theodota, were the leaders 
of a powerful party of monks possessing great influence in 
the church. Theodore (who is known by the name Studita, 
from havii^ been afterwards appointed abbot of the celebrated 
monastery of Studion) had founded a monastery on his own 
property, in which he assembled his father, two brothers, 
and a young sister, and, emancipating all his household and 

^ Mosheim, Institutes of Eeeltsiastieal History (translated by Murdoch), ii. 125, 
181 ; Soames' edit. 1845. But not to wrong St. Eligius, see also Arnold, Tntro^ 
ductory Lecturts on Modem History, 102. Maitland (The Dark Ages, 102) makes 
the most of Mosheim's error. The times, however, were not better than Mosheim 
represents them. 

■ The abuse of fictitious donations to monasteries had become so great an evil 
in Western Europe, as to require numerous laws to restrain the practice. The 
Lombard law allowed the granters to revoke these donations during their lives, 
and they reserved possession on paying a small annual sum as rent to the monas« 
tenr. Charlemagne declared all such donations irrevocable in order to check the 
cvu. The abuse existed among the Anglo-Saxons. Lingard^s History of England, 
i. 517. The Empress Irene founded the monastery of St. Euphrosyne, where her 
son Constantine, his divorced wife Maria, and his two daughters were buried; 
and also the monastery in Prince's Island, to which she was sent after her de- 
thronement, and before her banishment to Lesbos. 


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agricultjural slaves, established them as lay brethren on the 
farms. Most of the abbots round Constantinople were men of 
family and wealth, as well as learning and piety; but they 
repaid the sincere respect with which they were regarded by 
the people, by participating in popular prejudices, so that we 
cannot be surprised to find them constantly acting the part 
of demagogues. Plato separated himself from all spiritual 
communion with the Patriarch Tarasios, whom he declared to 
have violated the principles of Christianity in permitting the 
adulterous marriage of the emperor. His views were warmly 
supported by his nephew Theodore, and many monks b^^n 
openly to preach both against the Patriarch and the emperor. 
Irene now saw that the movement was taking a turn favour- 
able to her ambition. She encouraged the monks, and 
prepared Tarasios for quitting the party of his sovereign. 
Plato and Theodore were dangerous enemies, from their great 
reputation and extensive political and ecclesiastical connec- 
tions, and into a personal contest with these men Constantine 
rashly plunged. 

Plato was arrested at his monastery, and placed in confine- 
ment under the wardship of the abbot Joseph, who had 
celebrated the imperial marriage. Theodore was banished 
to Thessalonica, whither he was conveyed by a detachment 
of police soldiers. He has left us an account of his journey, 
which proves that the orders of the emperor were not carried 
into execution with undue severity^. Theodore and his 
attendant monks were seized by the imperial officers at a 
distance from the monastery, and compelled to commence 
their journey on the first horses their escort could procure, 
instead of being permitted to send for their ambling mules. 
They were hurried forward for three days, resting during the 
night at Kathara in Liviana, Leuka, and Phyraion. At the 
last place they encountered a melancholy array of monks, 
driven from the great monastery at Sakkoudion after the 
arrest of Plato ; but with these fellow-sufferers, though ranged 
along ^he road, Theodore was not allowed to communicate, 
except by bestowing on them his blessing as he rode past. 

* Theodori Studitae Opera, 330; Schlosser, 319, Some letters of Theodore 
Studita are given by Baronios. I have extracted the account of the journey from 
Schlosser {Oeschiehtt der bilderstumundtn Kaiur), for I have not been able to 
supply myself with the works of Theodore. 

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AJ>. 775-802.] 

He was then carried to Paula, from whence he wrote to Plato 
that he had seen his sister, with the venerable Sabas, abbot of 
the monastery of Studion. They had visited him secretly, 
but had been allowed by the guards to pass the evening in 
his society. Next night they reached Loupadion, where the 
exiles were kindly treated by their host. At Tilin they were 
joined by two abbots, Zacharias and Pionios, but they were 
not allowed to travel in company. The journey was con- 
tinued by Alberiza, Anagegrammenos, Perperina, Parium, 
and Horkos, to Lampsacus. On the road, the bishops 
expressed the greatest sympathy and eagerness to serve 
them ; but the bigoted Theodore declared that his conscience 
would not permit him to hold any communication with those 
who were so unchristian as to continue in communion with 
Tarasios and the emperor. 

From Lampsacus the journey was prosecuted by sea. A 
pious governor received them at Abydos with great kindness, 
and they rested there eight days. At Elaeus there was again 
a detention of seven days, and from thence they sailed to 
Lemnos, where the bishop treated Theodore with so much 
attention that his bigotry was laid asleep. The passage from 
Lemnos to Thessalonica was not without danger from the 
piratical boats of the Sclavonians who dwelt on the coast of 
Thrace, and exercised the trades of robbers and pirates as 
well as herdsmen and shepherds. A favourable wind carried 
the exiles without accident to Kanastron, from whence they 
touched at Pallene before entering the harbour of Thessa- 
lonica, which they reached on the 25th March 797. Here 
they were received by a guard, and conducted through the 
city to the residence of the governor. The people assembled 
in crowds to view the pious opponents of their emperor; 
while the governor received them with marks of personal 
respect, which showed him more anxious to conciliate the 
powerful monks than to uphold the dignity of the weak 
emperor. He conducted Theodore to the cathedral, that he 
might return thanks to God publicly for his safe arrival ; he 
then waited on him to the palace of the archbishop, where 
he was treated to a bath, and entertained most hospitably. 
The exiles were, however, according to the tenor of the 
imperial orders, placed in separate places of confinement; 
and even Theodore and his brother were not permitted to 

G 2 

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dwell together. The day of their triumph was not far distant, 

and their banishment does not appear to have subjected them 

to much inconvenience. They became confessors at a small 


As soon as Irene thought that her son had rendered him- 
self sufficiently unpopular throughout the empire, she formed 
her plot for dethroning him. The support of the principal 
officers in the palace was secured by liberal promises of 
wealth and advancement : a band of conspirators was then 
appointed to seize Constantine, but a timely warning enabled 
him to escape to Triton on the Propontis. He might easily 
have recovered possession of the capital, had he not wasted 
two months in idleness and folly. Abandoned at last by 
every friend, he was seized by his mother's emissaries and 
dragged to Constantinople. After being detained some time 
a prisoner in the porphyry apartment in which he was bom, 
his eyes were put out on the 19th August 797 \ Constantine 
had given his cruel mother public marks of that affection 
which he appears really to have felt for her, and to which he 
had sacrificed his best friends. He had erected a statue of 
bronze to her honour, which long adorned the hippodrome 
of Constantinople ^ 

Irene was now proclaimed sovereign of the empire. She 
had for some time been allowed by her careless son to direct 
the whole administration, and it was his confidence in her 
maternal affection which enabled her to work his ruin. She 
of course immediately released all the ecclesiastical opponents 
of her son from confinement, and restored them to their 
honours and offices. The Patriarch Tarasios was ordered to 
make his peace with the monks by excommunicating his 
creature, the abbot Joseph; and the closest alliance was 
formed between him and his former opponents, Plato and 
Theodore, the latter of whom was shortly after rewarded for 
his sufferings by being elevated to the dignity of abbot of the 
great monastery of Studion. 

The Empress Irene reigned five years, during which her 
peace was disturbed by the political intrigues of her ministers. 

* Gibbon, vi. 87. The authorities which prove that Constantine did not die 
of the inhuman treatment he received, but was living when Nicephorus dethroned 
his mother, are Contin., in Script, post Theopk, 53 ; I^ Gramm. 20a, edit. Bonn. 

' Codinus, Di Orig, Constantinop, 62. 

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Her life offers a more interesting subject for biography than 
for history, for it is more striking by its personal details, than 
important in its political effects. But the records of private 
life in the age in which she lived, and of the state of society 
at Athens, where she was educated, are so few, that it would 
require to be written by a novelist, who could combine the 
strange vicissitudes of her fortunes with a true portraiture of 
human feelings, coloured with a train of thought, and enriched 
with facts gleaned from contemporary lives and letters of 
Greek saints and monks \ Born in a private station, and 
in a provincial, though a wealthy and populous city, it must 
have required a rare combination of personal beauty, native 
grace, and mental superiority, to fill the rank of empress of 
the Romans, to which she was suddenly raised, at the court of 
a haughty sovereign like her father-in-law Constantine V., not 
only Mrithout embarrassment, but even with universal praise. 
Again, when vested with the regency, as widow of an Icono- 
clast emperor, it required great talent, firmness of purpose, 
and conciliation of manner, to overthrow an ecclesiastical 
party which had ruled the church for more than half a century. 
On the other hand, the deliberate way in which she under- 
mined the authority of her son, whose character she had 
corrupted by a bad education, and the callousness with which 
she gained his confidence in order to deprive him of his 
throne, and send him to pass his life as a blind monk in 
a secluded cell, proves that the beautiful empress, whose 
memory was cherished as an orthodox saint, was endowed 
with the heart and feelings of a demon. Strange to say, 
when the object of Irene's crimes was reached, she soon felt 
all the satiety of gratified ambition. She no longer took the 
interest she had previously taken in conducting the public 
business of the empire, and abandoned the exercise of her 
power to seven eunuchs, whom she selected to perform the 
duties of ministers of state. She forgot that her own elevation 
to the throne offered a tempting premium to successful 
treason. Nicephorus, the grand treasurer, cajoled her favourite 
eunuchs to join a plot, by which she was dethroned, and 
exiled to a monastery she had founded in Prince's Island ; 

* There is a work on the life of Irene, by Abb^ Mignot, Histmrt de VImpiratriet 
Irhu, Amst. 1662. It is inexact as history, and worthless as biography. 

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but she was soon after removed to Lesbos, where she died in 
a few months, almost forgotten^. Her fate after her death 
was as singular as during her life. The unnatural mother was 
canonized by the Greeks as an orthodox saint, and at her 
native Athens several churches are still pointed out which she 
is said to have founded, though not on any certain authority*. 
Under the government of Constantine VI. and Irene, the 
imperial policy, both in the civil administration and external 
relations, followed the course traced out by Leo the Isaurian. 
To reduce all the Sclavonian colonists who had formed settle- 
ments within the bounds of the empire to complete submis- 
sion, was the first object of Irene's r^ency. The extension 
of these settlements, after the great plague in 747, alarmed 
the government. Extensive districts in Thrace, Macedonia, 
and the Peloponnesus, assumed the form of independent com- 
munities, and hardly acknowledged allegiance to the central 
administration at Constantinople. Irene naturally took more 
than ordinary interest in the state of Greece. She kept up 
the closest communications with her family at Athens, and 
shared the desire of every Greek to repress the presumption of 
the Sclavonians, and restore the ascendancy of the Greek 
population in the rural districts. In the year 783 she sent 
Staurakios at the head of a well-appointed army to Thessa- 
lonica, to reduce the Sclavonian tribes in Macedonia to direct 
dependence, and enforce the r^ular payment of tribute^. 
From Thessalonica, Staurakios marched through Macedonia 
and Greece to the Peloponnesus, punishing the Sclavonians 
for the disorders they had committed, and carrying off a 
number of their able-bodied men to serve as soldiers or to be 
sold as slaves. In the following year Irene led the young 
Emperor Constantine to visit the Sclavonian settlements in 
the vicinity of Thessalonica, which had been reduced to 
absolute submission. Berrhoea, like several Greek cities, had 
fallen into ruins ; it was now rebuilt, and received the name 
of Irenopolis. Strong garrisons were placed in Philippopolis 

* Irene must have felt that there was some justice in the saying by which the 
Greeks characterized the hopeless demoralization of her favourites : • If you have 
an eunuch, kill him ; if you haven't one, buy one, and kill him.' 

* It is to St Irene the martyr, and not to the imperial saint, that the present 
cathedral of Athens is dedicated. The festival of the empress saint is on the 
7th August. Menologittm, iii. 195. 

^ Staurakios was one of Irene's favourite eunuchs. Theoph. 384. 


by Google 


iuD. 775-8oa.] 

and Anchialos, to cut off all communication between the 
Sclavonians in the empire, and their countrymen under the 
Bulgarian government. The Sclavonians in Thrace and Mace- 
donia, though unable to maintain their provincial independ- 
ence, still took advantage of their position, when removed 
from the eye of the local administration, to form bands of 
robbers and pirates, which rendered the communications with 
Constantinople and Thessalonica at times insecure both by 
land and sea ^. 

After Irene had dethroned her son, the Sclavonian popula- 
tion gave proofs of dangerous activity. A conspiracy was 
formed to place one of the sons of Constantine V. on the 
throne. Irene had banished her brothers-in-law to Athens, 
where they were sure of being carefully watched by her rela- 
tions, who were strongly interested in supporting her cause. 
The project of the partisans of the exiled princes to seize 
Constantinople was discovered, and it was found that the 
chief reliance of the Isaurian party in Greece was placed in the 
assistance they expected to derive from the Sclavonian popu- 
lation. The chief of Velzetia was to have carried off the sons 
of Constantine V. from Athens, when the plan was discovered 
and frustrated by the vigilance of Irene's friends ^. The four 
unfortunate princes, who had already lost their tongues, were 
now deprived of sight, and exiled with their brother Nice- 
phorus to Panormus, where they were again made the tools of 
a conspiracy in the reign of Michael I. 

The war with the Saracens was carried on with varied 
success during the reigns of Leo IV., Constantine VI., and 
Irene. The military talents of Leo III. and Constantine V. 
had formed an army that resisted the forces of the caliphs 
under the powerful government of Mansur; and even after 
the veterans had been disbanded by Irene, the celebrated 
Haroun Al Rashid was unable to make any permanent 
conquests, though the empire was engaged in war with the 
Saracens, the Bulgarians, and the troops of Charlemagne at 
the same time. 

* Stt the danger to which Theodore Studita was exposed, at p. 83. 

* Theoph. 400. It is difficult to fix the position of Velzetia. The geographical 
nomenclature of the Sclavonians gives us the same repetition of the same namw. 
in widely-distant districts, that we find in our own colonies. Theophanes (370) 
mentions Verzclia as a frontier district of Bulgaria This passage is remarkable 
for containing the earliest mention of the Russians in Byzantine history. 

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In the year 781^, Haroun was sent by his father, the Caliph 
Mahdy, to invade the empire, at the head of one hundred 
thousand men, attended by Rabia and Jahja the Barmecide 
The object of the Mohammedan prince was, however, rather 
directed to pillaging the country, and carrying off prisoners to 
supply the slave-markets of his father's dominions, than to 
effect permanent conquests. The absence of a considerable 
part of the Byzantine army, which was engaged in Sicily 
suppressing the rebellion of Elpidios, enabled Haroun to 
march through all Asia Minor to the shores of the Bosphonis, 
and from the hill above Scutari to gaze on Constantinople, 
which must then have presented a more imposing aspect than 
Bagdad. Irene was compelled to purchase peace, or rather to 
conclude a truce for three years, by paying an annual tribute 
of seventy thousand pieces of gold, and stipulating to allow 
the Saracen army to retire unmolested with all its plunder ; 
for Haroun and his generals found that their advance had 
involved them in many difficulties, of which an active enemy- 
might have taken advantage. Haroun Al Rashid is said to 
have commanded in person against the Byzantine empire in 
eight campaigns. Experience taught him to respect the 
valour and discipline of the Christian armies, whenever able 
officers enjoyed the confidence of the court at Constantinople ; 
and when he ascended the throne, he deemed it necessary to 
form a permanent army along the Mesopotamian frontier, 
to strengthen the fortifications of the towns with additiorial 
works, and add to their means of defence by planting in them 
new colonies of Mohammedan inhabitants \ During the time 
Constantine VI. ruled the empire, he appeared several times 
at the head of the Byzantine armies, and his fickle character 
did not prevent his displaying firmness in the field. His 
popularity with the soldiers was viewed with jealousy by his 
mother, who laboured to retard his movements, and prevent 
him from obtaining any decided success. The Saracens 
acknowledged that the Greeks were their superiors in naval 
affairs ; but in the year 792 they defeated the Byzantine fleet 
in the gulf of Attalia with great loss. The admiral, Theo- 
philos, was taken prisoner, and solicited by the caliph to abjure 
Christianity and enter his service. The admiral refused to 

* Weil, Guchichte dmr Ckalifm, ii. 155. 

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Aj), 775-803.J 

forsake his religion or serve against his country, and Haroun 
Al Rashid was mean enough to order him to be put to 

When the Saracens heard that Constantine had been 
dethroned, and the empire was again ruled by a woman 
whom they had already compelled to pay tribute, they 
renewed their invasions, and plundered Asia Minor up to 
the walls of Ephesus. Irene, whose ministers were occupied 
with court intrigues, took no measures to resist the enemy, 
and was once more obliged to pay tribute to the caliph^. 
The annual incursions of the Saracens into the Christian 
territory were made principally for the purpose of carrying 
away slaves; and great numbers of Christians were sold 
throughout the caliph's dominions into hopeless slavery. 
Haroun therefore took the field in his wars with the Byzantine 
empire more as a slave-merchant than a conqueror. But 
this very circumstance, which made war a commercial specu- 
lation, introduced humanity into the hostile operations of 
the Christians and Mohammedans : the lower classes were 
spared, as they were immediately sold for the price they 
would bring in the first slave-market; while prisoners of 
the better class were retained, in order to draw from them 
a higher ransom than their value as slaves, or to exchange 
them for men of equal rank who had fallen into the hands 
of the enemy. This circumstance had brought about regular 
exchanges of prisoners as early as the reign of Constantine 
v., A.D. 769 ^ In the year 797, a new clause was inserted 
in a treaty for the exchange of prisoners, binding the con- 
tracting parties to release all supernumerary captives, on 
the payment of a fixed sum for each individual ^ This 
arrangement enabled the Christians, who were generally the 
greatest sufferers, to save their friends from death or perpetual 
slavery, but it added to the inducements of the Saracens 
to invade the empire. The Byzantine, or, as they were 

• Theoplianes gives the Byzantine account of the Saracen war, which has 
been compared with the Arabian authorities by Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen, 

ii. 155- 

• Theoph. 374. 

• Three thousand seven hundred prisoners were exchanged, exclusive of the 
additional individuals ransomed by the Christians. A similar treaty was con- 
cluded between Haroun and Nicephorus in 805. NoHcts ei Exiraits de$ MSS* 
viii. 193. 

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still called, the Roman armies, were placed at a disadvantage 

in this species of warfare. Their discipline was adapted to 

defensive military operations, or to meet the enemy on the 

field of battle, but not to act with rapidity in plundering 

and carrying off slaves ; while the state of society in Christian 

countries rendered the demand for slaves less constant than 

in countries where polygamy prevailed, and women were 

excluded from many of the duties of domestic service. 

The war on the Bulgarian frontier was carried on simul- 
taneously with that against the Mohammedans. In the year 
788, a Bulgarian army surprised the general of Thrace, who 
had encamped carelessly on the banks of the Strymon, and 
destroyed him, with the greater part of his troops. In 791, 
Copstantine VI. took the field in person against Cardam, 
king of the Bulgarians, but the campaign was without any 
result: in the following year, however, the emperor was 
defeated in a pitched battle, in which several of the ablest 
generals of the Roman armies were slain. Yet, in 796, 
Constantine again led his troops against the Bulgarians : 
though victorious, he obtained no success sufficient to com- 
pensate his former defeat. The effects of the military- 
organization of the frontier by Constantine V. are visible 
in the superiority which the Byzantine armies assumed, even 
after the loss of a battle, and the confidence v^rith which 
they carried the war into the Bulgarian territory ^. 

The Byzantine empire was at this period the country in 
which there reigned a higher degree of order, and a ,more 
regular administration of justice, than in any other. This 
is shown by the extensive emigi^ition of Armenian Christians 
which took place in the year 787. The Caliph Haroun 
Al Rashid, whose reputation among the Mohammedans has 
arisen rather from his orthodoxy than his virtues, persecuted 
his Christian subjects with gp-eat cruelty, and at last his 
oppression induced twelve thousand Armenians to quit their 
native country, and settle in the Byzantine empire ^ Some 
years later, in the reign of Michael III. the drunkard, ortho- 
doxy became the great feature in the Byzantine administration ; 

* Theoph. 301-394. Constantine VI., and his grandfather. Constantine V.. are 
said to have oeen the only emperors before John I. (Zimiskes) who defeated 
the Bulgarians in their own country. Leo Diaconus, 104, edit. Bonn. 

* Chamich, History of Armema (Eng. Trans.), ii. 393. 

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AJ>. 775-^2.] 

and, unfortunately, Christian orthodoxy strongly resembled 

Mohammedanism in the spirit of persecution. The Paulicians 

were then persecuted by the emperors, as the Armenians 

had previously been by the caliphs, and fled for toleration 

to the Mohammedans. 

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The Reigns of Nicephorus I., Michael L, and Leo V. 
THE Armenian. — a.d. 8oa-8iio. 

Sect. 1.— Nicephorus I. — 8oa-8ii. 

His femily and character. — Rebellion of Bardanes. — Tolerant ecclesiastical policy. 
—Oppressive fiscal administration. — Relations with Charlemagne. — Saracen 
war. — Defeat of Sclavonians at Patrae. — Bulgarian war. — Death of Nice- 

Nicephorus held the office of grand logothetes, or treasurer, 
when he dethroned Irene. He was bom at Seleucla, in 
Pisidia, of a family which claimed descent from the Arabian 
kings. His ancestor Djaballah, the Christian monarch of 
Ghassan in the time of Heraclius, abjured the allegiance of 
the Roman empire, and embraced the Mohammedan religion. 
He carried among the stern and independent Moslems the 
monarchical pride and arrogance of a vassal court. As he 
was performing the religious rites of the pilgrimage in the 
mosque at Mecca, an Arab accidentally trode on his cloak ; 
Djaballah, enraged that a king should be treated with so 
little respect, struck the careless Arab in the face, and knocked 
out some of his teeth. The justice of the Caliph Omar 
knew no distinction of persons, and the king of Ghassan 
was ordered to make satisfactory reparation to the injured 
Arab, or submit to the law of retaliation. The monarch's 
pride was so deeply wounded by this sentence that he 
fled to Constantinople, and renounced the Mohammedan 

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religion \ From this king the Arabs, who paid the most 
minute attention to genealogy, allow that Nicephorus was 
lineally descended ^. 

The leading features of the reign of Nicephorus were 
political order and fiscal oppression. His character was said 
to be veiled in impenetrable hypocrisy ; yet anecdotes are 
recounted which indicate that he made no secret of his avarice 
and the other vices attributed to him. His orthodoxy was 
certainly suspicious, but, on the whole, he appears to have 
been an able and humane prince. He has certainly obtained 
a worse reputation in history than many emperors who have 
been guilty of greater crimes. Many anecdotes are recounted 
concerning his rapacity. 

As soon as he received the imperial crown, he bethought 
himself of the treasures Irene had concealed, and resolved 
to gain possession of them. Byzantine historians imagine 
that these treasures formed part of the immense sums Leo 
III. and Constantine V. were supposed to have accumulated. 
The abundance and low price of provisions which had pre- 
vailed, particularly in the reign of Constantine V., was 
ascribed to the rarity of specie caused by the lai^e sums 
of money which these emperors withdrew from circulation. 
Irene was said to know where all this wealth was concealed ; 
and though her administration had been marked by lavish 
expenditure and a diminution of the taxes, still she was believed 
to possess immense sums. If we believe the story of the 
chronicles, Nicephorus presented himself to Irene in a private 
garb, and assured her that he had only assumed the imperial 
crown to serve her and save her life. By flattery mingled 
with intimidation, he obtained possession of her treasures, 
and then, in violation of his promises, banished her to Lesbos. 

The dethroned Constantine had been left by his mother 
in possession of great wealth. Nicephorus is accused of 
ingratiating himself into the confidence of the blind prince, 
gaining possession of these treasures, and then neglecting 
him. Loud complaints were made s^ainst the extortion of the 

> Abnlpharagius, Chron, Syr, 139; Ockley. History of the Saracens, i. 150. 
Bchhom {De AndquUt, Hist, Arab, Monumentis, 171) gives an account of the 
fpm» event from Il» Kathaiba. . 

» Wakedy, CotiquSte de t^gypu, public par Hamaker, 66 ; Le Beau, Htstoire du 
Bat-Empire, xiv. 393, noU 1, edit. Saint-Martin. 

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tax-gatherers in the reigns of Constantine VI. and Irene, and 
Nicephorus established a court of review to revise the accounts 
of every public functionary. But his enemies accused him of 
converting this court into a means of confiscating the property 
of the guilty, instead of enabling the sufferers to recover their 

The accession of Nicephorus was an event unexpected both 
by the people and the army; and the success of a man whose 
name was previously almost unknown beyond the circle of the 
administration, held out a hope to every man of influence that 
an emperor, who owed his elevation to a conspiracy of eunuchs 
and a court intrigqe, might easily be driven from the throne. 
Bardanes, whom Nicephorus appointed general of the troops 
of five Asiatic themes to march against the Saracens, instead 
of leading this army against Haroun Al Rashid, proclaimed 
himself emperor. He was supported by Thomas the Sclavo- 
nian, as well as by Leo the Armenian and Michael the 
Amorian, who both subsequently mounted the throne. The 
crisis was one of extreme difficulty, but Nicephorus soon 
convinced the world that he was worthy of the throne. The 
rebel troops were discouraged by his preparations, and ren- 
dered ashamed of their conduct by his reproaches. Leo and 
Michael were gained over by a promise of promotion ; and 
Bardanes, seeing his army rapidly dispersing, negotiated for 
his own pardon. He was allowed to retire to a monastery 
he had founded in the island of Prote, but his estates were 
confiscated. Shortly after, while Bardanes was living in 
seclusion as an humble monk, a band of Lycaonian brigands 
crossed over from the Asiatic coast and put out his tyts. As 
the perpetrators of this atrocity were evidently moved by 
personal vengeance, suspicion fell so strongly on the emperor, 
that he deemed it necessary to take a solemn oath in public 
that he had no knowledge of the crime, and never entertained 
a thought of violating the safe-conduct he had given to 
Bardanes. This safe-conduct, it must be observed, had re- 
ceived the ratification of the Patriarch and the senate, Bar- 
danes himself did not appear to suspect the emperor; he 
showed the greatest resignation and piety ; gave up the use 
of wheaten bread, wine, oil, and fish, living entirely on barley 
cakes, which he baked in the embers. In summer he wore 
a single leather garment, and in winter a mantle of hair- 

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cloth. In this way he lived contentedly, and died during the 
reign of Leo the Armenian. 

The civil transactions of the reign of Nicephorus present 
some interesting facts. Though a brave soldier, he was 
essentially a statesman, and his conviction that the finance 
department was the peculiar business of the sovereign, and 
the key of public affairs, can be traced in many significant 
events. He eagerly pursued the centralizing policy of his 
Iconoclast predecessors, and strove to render the civil power 
supreme over the clergy and the Church. He forbade the 
Patriarch to hold any communications with the Pope, whom 
he considered as the Patriarch of Charlemagne; and this 
prudent measure has caused much of the virulence with which 
his memory has been attacked by ecclesiastical and orthodox 
historians^. The Patriarch Tarasios had shown himself no 
enemy to the supremacy of the emperor, and he was highly 
esteemed by Nicephorus as one of the heads of the party, 
both in the church and state, which the empero^was anxious 
to conciliate. When Tarasios died, A.D. 806, Nicephorus 
made a solemn display of his grief. Th^JjodjiV-clad-in-the--. 
patri archal robes ,,xrowned with the mitre, and seated on the 
epi scopa Mfchrone, according^olflftc usage of the East, was * 
transported f<5r a monastery founHeS'Tiy" Hie "deceased Patri- 
arch on the shores of the Bosphorus, where the funeral was 
performed with great pomp, the emperor assisting, embracing 
the body, and covering it with his purple robe ^. 

Nicephorus succeeded in finding an able and popular 
prelate, disposed to support his secular views, worthy to suc- 
ceed Tarasios. This was the historian Nicephoros. He had 
already retired from public life, and was residing in a monas- 
tery he had founded, though he had not yet taken monastic 
vows. On his election, he entered the clergy, and took the 
monastic habit. This last step was rendered necessary by the 
usage of the Greek church, which now only admitted monks 
to the episcopal dignity. To give the ceremony additional 
splendour, Staurakios, the son of the Emperor Nicephorus, 
who had received the imperial crown from his father, was 
deputed to be present at the tonsure. 

The Patriarch Nicephoros was no sooner installed than the 

Theoph. 419. > Theoph. 407. 

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emperor began to execute his measures for establishing the 
supremacy of the civil power. Tarasios, after sanctioning 
the divorce of Constantine VI., and allowing the celebration 
of his second marris^e, had yielded to the influence of Irene 
and the monks, and declared both acts illegal. The Emperor 
Nicephorus considered this a dangerous precedent, and re- 
solved to obtain an affirmation of the validity of the second 
marriage. The new Patriarch assembled a synod, in which 
the marriage was declared valid, and the abbot Joseph, who 
had celebrated it, was absolved from all ecclesiastical censure. 
The monastic party, enraged at the emperor seeking emanci- 
pation from their authority, broke out into a furious opposi- 
tion. Theodore Studita, their leader, calls this synod an 
assembly of adulterers and heretics, and reproached the 
Patriarch with sacrificing the interests of religion \ But, 
Nicephorus having succeeded in bringing about this explosion 
of monastic ire on a question in which he had no personal 
interest, the people, who now r^arded the unfortunate Con- 
stantine VI. as hardly used on the subject of his marriage 
with Theodota, could not be persuaded to take any part in 
the dispute. Theodore's violence was also supposed to arise 
from his disappointment at not being elected Patriarch. 

Public opinion became so favourable to the emperor's eccle- 
siastical views, that a synod assembled in 809 declared the 
Patriarch and bishops to possess the power of granting dispen- 
sations from rules of ecclesiastical law, and that the emperor 
was not bound by legislative provisions enacted for subjects. 
Nicephorus considered the time had now come for compelling 
the monks to obey his authority. He ordered Theodore 
Studita and Plato to take part in the ecclesiastical ceremonies 
with the Patriarch ; and when these refractory abbots refused, 
he banished them to Prince's Island, and then deposed them. 
Had the monks now opposed the emperor on the reasonable 
ground that he was violating the principles on which the 
security of society depended, by setting up his individual will 
against the systematic rules of justice, the maxims of Roman 
law, the established usages of the empire, and the eternal 
rules of equity, they would have found a response in the 
hearts of the people. Such doctrines might have led to some 

^ In a letter to the Pope. Baronii AnnaUs EccUs, ix. p. 646, a.d. 806. 

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political reform in the government, and to the establishment 
of some constitutional check on the exercise of arbitrary 
power ; and the exclamation of Theodore, in one of his letters 
to the Pope, 'Where now is the gospel for kings?' might then 
have revived the spirit of liberty among the Greeks. 

At this time there existed a party which openly advocated 
the right of every man to the free exercise of his own religious 
opinions in private, and ui^ed the policy of the government 
abstaining from every attempt to enforce unity. Some of 
this party probably indulged in as liberal speculations con- 
cerning the political rights of meo, but such opinions were 
generally considered incompatible with social order ^ The 
emperor, however, favoured the tolerant party, and gave its 
members a predominant influence in his cabinet. Greatly to 
the dissatisfaction of the Greek party, he refused to persecute 
the Paulicians, who formed a considerable community in the 
eastern provinces of Asia Minor ; and he tolerated the Athin- 
gans in Pisidia and Lycaonia, allowing them to exercise their 
religion in peace, as long as they violated none of the laws of 
the empire 2. 

The financial administration of Nicephorus is justly accused 
of severity, and even of rapacity. He affords a good personi- 
fication of the fiscal genius of the Roman empire, as described 
by the Emperor Justin II., upwards of three centuries earlier ^ 
His thoughts were chiefly of tribute and taxes; and, un- 
fortunately for his subjects, his intimate acquaintance with 
financial affairs enabled him in many cases to extort a great 
increase of revenue, without appearing to impose on them any 
new burdens. But though he is justly accused of oppression, 
he does not merit the reproach of avarice often urged against 
him. When he considered expenditure necessary for the 
good of the empire, he was liberal of the public money. He 
spared no expense to keep up numerous armies, and it was 
not from ill-judged economy, but from want of military 
talents, that his campaigns were unsuccessful. 

* Compare Theoph. 413 and 419. 

• Theoph. 413. For the Paulicians, see Gibbon, vii. 47; Mosheim, ii. 235; 
Neander, lii. 244. 

» *Die noctuque pro utilitate reipublicae subtiliter cogitantes ilia properamus 
renovare, quanta in lods opportunis sunt neoessaria et maxime pro tributis atque 
reditibns, sine quibus impossibile est aliquid agere prospemm/ Cfmat. Juftiniani 
ymstmi et Tib. xxvii. 3; Dt JUiis Uherarum/m Corp, Jwr. Civ. ii. 51a, 4to edit 
ster. ; iii. 237, edit Elzevir. 1663. 

V^^ "• " rooal(> 

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Nicephorus restored the duties levied at the entrance of the 
Hellespont and the Bosphorus, which had been remitted by 
Irene to purchase popularity after her cruelty to her sonK 
He ordered all the provinces to furnish a stated number of 
able-bodied recruits for the army, drawn from among, the 
poor ; and obliged each district to pay the sum of eighteen 
nomismata a-head for their equipment — enforcing the old 
Roman principle of mutual responsibility for the payment 
of taxes, in case the recruits should possess property liable 
to taxation^. One-twelfth was likewise added to the duty 
on public documents. An additional tax of two nomismata 
was imposed on all domestic slaves purchased beyond the 
Hellespont. The inhabitants of Asia Minor engaged in com- 
merce were compelled to purchase a certain quantity of 
landed property belonging to the fisc at a fixed valuation : and, 
what tended to blacken the emperor's reputation more than 
anything else, he extended the hearth-tax to the property of 
the church, to monasteries, and charitable institutions, which 
had hitherto been exempted from the burden; and he en- 
forced the payment of arrears from the commencement of his 
reign. The innumerable private monasteries, which it was 
the fashion to multiply, withdrew so much property from 
taxation that this measure was absolutely necessary to pre- 
vent frauds on the fisc; but though necessary, it was un- 
popular. Nicephorus, moreover, permitted the sale of gold 
and silver plate dedicated as holy offerings by private super- 
stition ; and, like many modem princes, he quartered troops 
in monasteries. It is also made an accusation against his 
government, that he furnished the merchants at Constantinople 
engaged in foreign trade with the sum of twelve pounds' 
weight of gold, for which they were compelled to pay twenty 
per cent, interest. It is diflScult, from the statements of the 
Byzantine writers concerning these legislative acts, to form 
a precise idea of the emperor's object in some cases, or the 
effects of the law in others. His enemies do not hesitate to 
enumerate among his crimes the exertions he made to establish 

* Theoph. 401. 

' Eighteen nomismata is nearly £10. We see from this that the individiial 
in the ranks was more expensive in ancient than in modem times. He acted 
also a more important part. Artillery was then inferior, and less expensiye. We 
must not forget that, during the period embraced in this volume, ue Byzantine 
army was the finest in the world. 

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AJ>. 803-81 1.] 

military colonies in the waste districts on the Bulgarian 
frontier, secured by the line of fortresses constructed by 
Constantine V. His object was to cut off effectually all 
communication between the unruly Sclavonians in Thrace 
and the population to the north. There can be no doubt 
of his enforcing every claim of the government with rigour. 
He ordered a strict census of all agriculturists who were not 
natives to be made throughout the provinces, and the land 
they cultivated was declared to belong to the imperial domain. 
He then converted these cultivators into slaves of the fisc, by 
the application of an old law, which declared that all who had 
cultivated the same land for the space of thirty years con- 
secutively, were restricted to the condition of coloni, or serfs 
attached to the soil ^. 

The conspiracies which were formed against Nicephorus 
cannot be admitted as evidence of his unpopularity, for the 
best of the Byzantine monarchs were as often disturbed by 
secret plots as the worst. The elective title to the empire 
rendered the prize to successful ambition one which over- 
powered the respect due to their country's laws in the breasts 
of the courtiers of Constantinople. It is only from popular 
insurrections that we can judge of the sovereign's unpopularity. 
The principles of humanity that rendered Nicephorus averse 
to religious persecution, caused him to treat conspirators with 
much less cruelty than most Byzantine emperors. Perhaps 
the historians hostile to his government have deceived posterity, 
giving considerable importance to insignificant plots, as we 
see modem diplomatists continually deceiving their courts 
by magnifying trifling expressions of dissatisfaction into 
dangerous presages of widespread discontent. In the year 
808, however, a conspiracy was really formed to place 
Arsaber — a patrician, who held the office of quaestor, or 
minister of legislation— on the throne. Though Arsaber 
was of an Armenian family, many persons of rank were 
Icc^ued with him ; yet Nicephorus only confiscated his 
estates, and compelled him to embrace the monastic life*. 

* Theoph- 41 1 > 413, 414; Cedrenus, ii. 480; Cod, Justin.^ De Agriedis et Cen- 
tids, 3d. 47. 18. 

* Aisaber and Bardanes were both of Armenian descent. Chamich (or Tcham- 
tchian) says, * In this age, three Armenians were elected at different periods to 
the imperial throne of the Greeks. Two of them, Vardan and Arshavir, only 
held that high post for a few days. The other, Lcvond (Leo V.), an Arzunian, 

H 2 J 

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An attempt was made to assassinate the emperor by a man 
who rushed into the palace, seized the sword of one of the 
guards of the imperial chamber, and severely wounded many 
persons before he was secured. The criminal was a monk, 
who was put to the torture, according to the cruel practice of 
the time ; but Nicephorus, on learning that he was a maniac, 
ordered him to be placed in a lunatic asylum. Indeed, though 
historians accuse Nicephorus of inhumanity, the punishment 
of death, in cases of treason, was never carried into effect 
during his reign. 

The relations of Nicephorus with Charlemagfne were for 
a short time amicable. A treaty was concluded at Aix-la- 
Chapelle, in 803, regulating the frontiers of the two empires. 
In this treaty, the supremacy of the Eastern Empire over 
Venice, Istria, the maritime parts of Dalmatia, and the south 
of Italy, was acknowledged; while the authority of the 
Western Empire in Rome, the exarchate of Ravenna, and 
the Pentapolis, was recognised by Nicephorus ^ The com- 
merce of Venice with the East was already so important, 
and the Byzantine administration afforded so many guarantees 
for the security of property, that the Venetians, in spite of 
the menaces of Charlemagne, remained firm in their allegiance 
to Nicephorus. Istria, on the other hand, placed itself sub- 
sequently under the protection of the Frank emperor, and 
paid him a tribute of 354 marks. Pepin, king of Italy, was 
also charged by his father to render the Venetians, and the 
allies of the Byzantine empire in the north of Italy, tributary 
to the Franks ; but Nicephorus sent a fleet into the Adriatic, 
and effectually protected his friends. A people, called 
Orobiatae, who maintained themselves as an independent 
community in the Apennines, pretending to preserve their 
allegiance to the emperor of Constantinople, plundered Popu- 
Ionium in Tuscany. They afford us proof how much easier 
Charlemagne found it to extend his conquests than to preserve 
order*. Venice, it is true, found itself in the end compelled 
to purchase peace with the Frank empire, by the payment 

rdgned seven years. Not long after, Prince Manuel, of the tribe of the Mami- 
conians, greatly distinguished himself at the court of the emperor (Theophilus) 
by his undaunted valour and skill in war.' History of Armenia (translated by 
Avdall). vol. i. 399. 

* A. Dandolo ; in Muratori, Script, Rer, ltd, xii. 151. 

' Eginhard, Ann, Franc, aj>. 809. 

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of an annual tribute of thirty-six pounds of gold, in order 
to secure its commercial relations from interruption; and 
it was not released from this tribute until the time of Otho 
the Great ^. It was during the reign of Nicephorus that the 
site of the present city of Venice became the seat of the 
Venetian government, Rivalto (Rialto) becoming the residence 
of the duke and the principal inhabitants, who retired from 
the continent to escape the attacks of Pepin. Heraclea had 
previously been the capital of the Venetian municipality. 
In 8io, peace was again concluded between Nicephorus and 
Charlemagne, without making any change in the frontier of 
the two empires. 

The power of the caliphate was never more actively em- 
ployed than under Haroun Al Rashid, but the reputation of 
that prince was by no means so great among his contempo- 
raries as it became in after times. Nicephorus was no sooner 
seated on the throne, than he refused to pay the caliph the 
tribute imposed on Irene. The Arabian historians pretend 
that his refusal was communicated to Haroun in an insolent 
letter 2. To resist the attacks of the Saracens, which he well 
knew would follow his refusal, he collected a powerful army in 
wAsia Minor ; but this army broke out into rebellion, and, as 
has been already mentioned, proclaimed Bardanes emperor. 
The caliph, availing himself of the defenceless state of the 
empire, laid waste Asia Minor; and when the rebellion of 
Bardanes was extinguished, Nicephorus, afraid to trust any 
veteran general with the command of a large army, took the 
command himself, and was defeated in a great battle at 
Krasos in Phrygian After this victory the Saracens laid 
waste the country in every direction, until a rebellion in 
Chorasan compelled Haroun to withdraw his best troops 
from the Byzantine frontier, and gave Nicephorus time to 
re-assemble a new army. As soon as the affairs in the East 
were tranquillized, the caliph again invaded the Byzantine 
empire. Haroun fixed his headquarters at Tyana, where he 
built a mosque, to mark that he annexed that city to the Mo- 
hammedan empire. One division of his army, sixty thousand 

' Constant. Porphyr. D« Adm, Imp, c. 28, a.d. 962. 

• Wdl {Gssckichu der Chali/en, ii. 159) gives the letter of the emperor and the 
answer of the caliph. I cannot suppose they are authentic. 
» Theoph. 406. 

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strong, took and destroyed Ancyra. Heraclea on Mount 
Taurus was also captured, and sixteen thousand prisoners 
were carried off in a single campaign \ A.D. 806. Nicephorus, 
unable to arrest these ravages, endeavoured to obtain peace ; 
and in spite of the religious bigotry which is supposed to have 
envenomed the hostilities of Haroun, the imperial embassy 
consisted of the bishop of Synnada, the abbot of Gulaias, and 
the oeconomos of Amastris. As winter was approaching, and 
the Saracens were averse to remain longer beyond Mount 
Taurus, the three ecclesiastical ambassadors succeeded in 
arranging a treaty ; but Nicephorus was compelled to submit 
to severe and degrading conditions. He engaged not to 
rebuild the frontier fortifications which had been destroyed 
by the caliph's armies, and he consented to pay a tribute of 
thirty thousand pieces of gold annually, adding three addi- 
tional pieces for himself, and three for his son and colleague 
Staurakios, which we must suppose to have been medallions 
of superior size, since they were offered as a direct proof that 
the emperor of the Romans paid a personal tribute to the 
caliph ^. 

Nicephorus seems to have been sadly deficient in feelings 
of honour, for, the moment he conceived he could evade the 
stipulations of the treaty without danger, he commenced 
repairing the ruined fortifications. His subjects suffered for 
his conduct. The caliph again sent troops to invade the 
empire ; Cyprus and Rhodes were ravaged ; the Bishop of 
Cyprus was compelled to pay one thousand dinars as his 
ransom ; and many Christians were carried away from Asia 
Minor, and settled in Syria. 

The death of Haroun, in 809, delivered the Christians from 
a barbarous enemy, who ruined their country like a brigand, 
without endeavouring to subdue it like a conqueror. Haroun's 
personal valour, his charity, his liberality to men of letters, 
and his religious zeal, have secured him interested panegyrics, 
which have drowned the voice of justice. The hero of the 

' Gibbon (vi. 406) adopts the opinion that the Pontic Heraclea was taken in 
an earlier campaign ; but Saint-Martin, in his notes to Le Beau (xii. 426), points 
out that this is not probable. Theoph. 407 ; Schlosser, 350 ; Weil, ii. 160. 

* If these tribute-pieces were medallions like the celebrated medal of Jus- 
tinian I., which was stolen from the National Library at Paris, the sight of one 
would gladden the heart of a numismatist. See Pinder and Friedlander, Z)w 
Mv.nj£n Justtnianst plate ii. 

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Arabian Tales and the ally of Charlemagne is vaunted as one 
of the greatest princes who ever occupied a throne. The dis- 
graceful murder of the Barmecides, and many other acts of 
injustice and cruelty, gave him a very different character in 
history. His plundering incursions into the Byzantine empire 
might have been glorious proofs of courage in some petty 
Syrian chieftain, but they degrade the ruler of the richest and 
most extensive empire on the earth into a mere slave-dealer ^. 

The Saracens continued their incursions, and in the year 
811, Leo the Armenian, then lieutenant-governor of the 
Armeniac theme, left a sum of thirteen hundred pounds' 
weight of silver, which had been collected as taxes, at 
Euchaites, without a sufficient guard. A band of Saracens 
carried off this money; and for his negligence Leo was 
ordered to Constantinople, where the future emperor was 
scourged, and deprived of his command ^. 

The Sclavonian colonies in Greece were now so powerful 
that they formed the project of rendering themselves masters 
of the Peloponnesus, and expelling the Greek population. 
The Byzantine expedition, in the early part of the regency 
of Irene, had only subjected these intruders to tribute, without 
diminishing their numbers or breaking their power ^. The 
troubled aspect of public affairs, after Nicephorus seized the 
throne, induced them to consider the moment favourable for 
gaining their independence. They assembled a numerous 
force under arms, and selected Patrae as their first object of 
attack. The possession of a commercial port was necessary 
to their success, in order to enable them to supply their wants 
from abroad, and obtain a public revenue by the duties on the 
produce they exported. Patrae was then the most flourishing 
city on the west coast of Greece, and its possession would 
have enabled the Sclavonians to establish direct communica- 
tions with, and draw assistance from, the kindred race estab- 
lished on the shores of the Adriatic, and from the Saracen 
pirates, among whose followers the Saclavi, or Sclavonian 

' The story of the three apples in the Arabian Nights gives a correct idea of 
the violence and injustice of the celebrated caliph, whose hasty temper was well 
known. For the causes of Haroun's injustice to the Barmecides, see Weu, 
Gesckieh/e der Chcdifen, ii. 137. 

» Theoph. 414; Contin., m Script, posi TheopK 7; Genesius, 6. 

» Theoph. 385. 

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captives and ren^ades, made a considerable figure*. The 
property of the Greeks beyond the protection of the walled 
towns was plundered, to supply the army destined to beside 
Patrae with provisions; and a communication was opened 
with a Saracen squadron of African pirates which blockaded 
the gulf ^. Patrae was closely invested, until want began to 
threaten the inhabitants with death, and compelled them to 
think of surrender (a.d. 807). 

The Byzantine government had no regular troops nearer 
than Corinth, which is three days' march from Patrae. But 
the governor of the province who resided there was unable 
immediately to detach a force sufficient to attack the 
besieging army. In the mean time, as the inhabitants were 
anxiously waiting for relief, one of their scouts, stationed to 
announce the approach of succours from Corinth, accidentally 
gave the signal agreed upon. The enthusiasm of the Greeks 
was excited to the highest pitch by the hopes of speedy 
deliverance, and, eager for revenge on their enemies, they 
threw open the city gates and made a vigorous attack on the 
besi^ers, whom they drove from their position with consider- 
able loss. 

The Byzantine general arrived three days after this victory. 
His jealousy of the military success of the armed citizens 
induced him to give currency to the popular accounts, which 
he found the superstition of the people had already circulated, 
that St. Andrew, the Patron of Patrae, had shown himself on 
the field of battle. The devastations committed by the 
Sclavonians, the victory of the Greeks, and the miraculous 
appearance of the apostle at the head of the besieged, were 
all announced to the Emperor Nicephorus, whose political 
views rendered him more willing to reward the church for 
St. Andrew's assistance, than to allow his subjects to perceive 
that their own valour was sufficient to defend their property : 
he feared they might discover that a well-constituted muni- 
cipal government would always be able to protect them, while 
a distant central authority was often incapable of sending 
them efficient aid and generally indifferent to their severest 
sufferings. Nicephorus was too experienced a statesman, 
with the examples of Venice and Cherson before his eyes, not 

* Reinaud, Invasiom des Sarrazins en Franct^ 237. 
' Constant. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. c. 49. 


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A.D. 801-81 1.] 

to fear that such a discovery among the Greek population 
in the Peloponnesus would tend to circumscribe the fiscal 
energy of the Constatitinopolitan treasury. The church, and 
not the people, profited by the success of the Greeks: the 
imperial share of the spoil taken from the Sclavonians, both 
property and slaves, was bestowed on the church of St. 
Andrew; and the bishops of Methone, Lacedaemon, and 
Corone were declared suffragans of the metropolitan of 
Patrae. T^ie charter of Nicephorus was ratified by Leo VI., 
the Wise, in a new and extended act ^. 

The Bulgarians were always troublesome neighbours, as a 
rude and warlike people generally proves to a wealthy popu- 
lation. Their king, Crumn, was an able and warlike prince. 
For some time after his accession, he was occupied by hostili- ' 
ties with the Avars, but as soon as that war was terminated, 
he seized an opportunity of plundering a Byzantine military 
chest, containing eleven hundred pounds of gold, destined for 
the payment of the troops stationed on the banks of the 
Strymon. After surprising the camp, dispersing the troops, 
mxirdering the officers, and capturing the treasure, he extended 
his ravages as far as Sardica, where he slew six thousand 
Roman soldiers. 

Nicephorus intoediately assembled a considerable army, and 
marched to re-establish the security of his northern frontier. 
The death of Haroun left so large a force at his disposal 
that he contemplated the destruction of tfee Bulgarian king- 
dom ; but the Byzantine troops in Europe were in a disaffected 
state, and their indiscipline rendered the campaign abortive. 
The resolution of Nicephorus remained, nevertheless, unshaken 
though his life was in danger from the seditious conduct of the 
soldiery ; and he was in the end compelled to escape from his 
own camp, and seek safety in Constantinople. 

In 811, a new army, consisting chiefly of conscripts and 
raw recruits, was hastily assembled, aiid hurried into the field. 
In preparing for the campaign, Nicephorus displayed extreme 
financial severity, and ridiculed the timidity of those who 
counselled delay with a degree of cynicism which paints 
well the singular character of this bold financier. Having 
resolved to tax monasteries, and levy an augmentation of the 

* Leundavius, Jw Graeeo-Romantitn, 278; Le Quien, Oriem Christianut^ u, 179. 

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land-tax from the nobility for the eight preceding years, his 
ministers endeavoured to persuade him of the impolicy of his 
proceedings ; but he only exclaimed, * What can you expect ! 
God has hardened my heart, and my subjects can expect 
nothing else from me.' The historian Theophanes says that 
these words were repeated to him by Theodosios, the minister 
to whom they were addressed \ The energy of Nicephorus 
was equal to his rapacity, but it was not supported by a 
corresponding degree of military skill. He led his army so 
rapidly to Markelles, a fortress built by Constantine VI., 
within the line of the Bulgarian frontier, that Crumn, alarmed 
at his vigour, sent an embassy to solicit peace ^ This pro- 
posal was rejected, and the emperor pushed forward and 
captured a residence of the Bulgarian monarch's near the 
frontiers, in which a considerable amount of treasure was 
found. Crumn, dispirited at this loss, offered to accept any 
terms of peace compatible with the existence of his inde- 
pendence, but Nicephorus would agree to no terms but 
absolute submission. 

The only contemporary account of the following events is 
in the chronicle of Theophanes, and it leaves us in doubt 
whether the rashness of Nicephorus or the treason of his 
generals was the real cause of his disastrous defeat. Even if 
we give Crumn credit for g^eat military skill, the success of 
the stratagem, by which he destroyed a Byzantine army 
greatly superior to his own, could not have been achieved 
without some treasonable co-operation in the emperor's camp. 
It is certain that an officer of the imperial household had 
deserted at Markelles, carrying away the emperor's wardrobe 
and one hundred pounds' weight of gold, and that one of the 
ablest engineers in the Byzantine service had previously fled 
to Bulgaria. It seems not improbable, that by means of 
these officers treasonable communications were maintained 
with the disaffected in the Byzantine army. 

When Nicephorus entered the Bulgarian territory, Crumn 
had a much larger force in his immediate vicinity than the 

* Theoph. 414; Cedrenus, ii. 481 ; Zonaras, ii. 124. Theodosios perished with 
his master, therefore these words were repeated while he was a favourite minister, 
and it may thence be inferred that some misconstruction has been put on the 
circumstances by the prejudices of Theophanes. 

* Theoph. 394. 

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AJ». 802-811.] 

Byzantine generals supposed. The Bulgarian troops, though 
defeated in the advance, were consequently allowed to watch 
the movements of the invaders, and to entrench at no great 
distance without any attempt to dislodge them. It is even 
said that Crumn was allowed to work for two days, forming 
a strong palisade to circumscribe the operations of the 
imperial army, while Nicephorus was wasting his time collect- 
ing the booty found in the Bulgarian palace ; and that, when 
the emperor saw the work finished, he exclaimed, * We have 
no chance of safety except by being transformed into birds!' 
Yet even in this desperate position the emperor is said to 
have n^lected the usual precautions to secure his camp 
against a night attack. Much of this seems incredible. 

Crumn made a grand nocturnal attack on the camp of 
Nicephorus, just six days after the emperor had invaded the 
Bulgarian kingdom. The Byzantine army was taken by 
surprise, and the camp entered on every side ; the whole 
baggage and military chest were taken ; the Emperor Nice- 
phorus and six patricians, with many officers of the highest 
rank, were slain ; and the Bulgarian king made a drinking-cup 
of the skull of the emperor of the Romans, in which the 
Sclavonian princes of the Bulgarian court pledged him in the 
richest wines of Greece when he celebrated his triumphal 
festivals \ The Bulgarians must have abandoned their 
strong palisade when they attacked the camp, for a con- 
siderable portion of the defeated army, with the Emperor 
Staurakios, who was severely wounded, Stephen the general 
of the g^ard, and Theoctistos the master of the palace, 
reached Adrianople in safety. Staurakios was immediately 
proclaimed his father's successor, and the army was able and 
willing to maintain him on the throne, had he possessed 
health and ability equal to the crisis. But the fiscal severity 
of his father had created a host of enemies to the existing 
system of government, and in the Byzantine empire a change 
of administration implied a change of the emperor. The 
numerous statesmen who expected to profit by a revolution 
declared in favour of Michael Rhangab^, an insignificant 
noble, who had married Procopia the daughter of Nicephorus. 
Staurakios was compelled by his brother-in-law to retire into 

* Theoph. 416. Nicephorus was slain on the asth July, Six. 

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[Bk. I. Ch. II. S J. 

a monastery, where he soon died of his wounds. He had 

occupied the throne two months. 

Sect. II.— Michael I. {Rhangabi), A. D. 812-813. 

Religious zeal of Mi'chael. — Bulgarian war. — Defeat of Michael. 

Michael I. was crowned by the Patriarch Nicephoros, after 
signing a written declaration that he would defend the church, 
protect the ministers of religion, and never put the orthodox 
to death. This election* of a tool of the bigoted party in the 
Byzantine church was a reaction against the tolerant policy of 
Nicephorus. The new emperor began his reign by remitting 
all the additional taxes imposed by his predecessor which had 
awakened clerical opposition. He was a weak, well-meaning 
man ; but his wife Procopia was a lady of superior qualifica- 
tions, who united to a virtuous and charitable disposition 
something of her father's vigour of mind. Michael's reign 
proved the necessity of always having a firm hand to guide 
that complicated administrative machine which the Byzantine 
sovereigns inherited from the empire of Rome. 

Michael purchased popularity in the capital by the lavish 
manner in which he distributed the wealth left by Nicephorus 
in the imperial treasury. He bestowed large sums on monas- 
teries, hospitals, poor-houses, and other charitable institutions, 
and he divided liberal gratuities among the leading members 
of the clergy, the chief dignitaries of the state, and the highest 
officers of the army^. His piety as well as his party con- 
nections induced him to admit several monks to a place in 
his council ; and he made it an object of political importance to 
reconcile the Patriarch Nicephoros with Theodore Studita. 
But by abandoning the policy of his predecessor, after it had 
received the Patriaifch*s sanction and become the law of the 
church, Michael lost more in public opinion than he gained 
by the alliance of a troop of bigoted monks, who laboured to 
subject the power of the emperor and the policy of the state 

* Theoph. 418, 419. The follbwin^ sums are recorded in detail : — Fifty pounds' 
weight of gold to Ae Patriarch Nicephoros ; twenty -five to the clergy, at the 
coronation ; five hundred lb. of gold to the widows of those who fell with Nice- 
phorus ; one hundred lb. of gold, besides robes and ornaments, to the Patriarch 
and clergy, at the coronation of his son Theophylactus. 


by Google 


AJ>. 812-813.] 

to their own narrow ideas. The abbot Joseph, who had 
celebrated the marriage of the Emperor Constantiire VI., was 
again excommunicated, as the peace-offering which allowed 
the bigots to renew their communion with the Patriarch. 

The counsels of Theodore Studita soon involved the govern- 
ment in fresh embarrassment. To signalize his zeal for 
orthodoxy, he persuaded the emperor to persecute the Icono- 
clasts, who, during the preceding reign, had been allowed 
to profess their opinions without molestation. It was also 
proposed, in an assembly of the senate, to put the leaders 
of the Paulicians and Athingans to death, in order to intimi- 
date their followers, and persuade them to become orthodox 
Christians. This method of converting men to the Greek 
church excited strong opposition on the part of the tolerant 
members of the senate ; but, the Patriarch and clergy having 
deserted the cause of humanity, the permanent interests of 
Christianity were sacrificed to the cause of orthodoxy. 

While the emperor persecuted a large body of his subjects 
on the northern and eastern frontiers of his empire, he 
n^lected to defend the provinces against the incursions of 
the Bulgarians, who ravaged great part of Thrace and Mace- 
donia, and took several large and wealthy towns. The weight 
of taxation which fell on the mass of the population was not 
lightened when the emperor relieved the clergy and the 
nobility from the additional burdens imposed on them by 
Nicephorus. Discontent spread rapidly. A lunatic girl, 
placed in a prominent position, as the emperor passed through 
the streets of Constantinople, cried aloud — 'Descend from 
thy seat ! descend, and make room for another ! ' The con- 
tinual disasters which were announced from the Bulgarian 
frontier made the people and the army remember with regret 
the prosperous days of Constantine V., when the slave-markets 
of the capital were filled with their enemies. Encouraged by 
the general dissatisfaction, the Iconoclasts formed a conspiracy 
to convey the sons of Constantine V., who were living, blind 
and mute, in their exile at Panormus, to the army. The plot 
was discovered, and Michael ordered the helpless princes to be 
conveyed to Aphiusa, a small island in the Propontis, where 
they could be closely guarded. One of the conspirators had 
his tongue cut out. 

The wars of Mohammed Alemen and Almamun, the sons 

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of Haroun Al Rashid, relieved the empire from all serious 
danger on the sidfe of the Saracens. But the Bulgarian war, 
to which Michael owed his throne, soon caused him to lose it. 
The army and the people despised him, because he owed his 
elevation, not to his talents, but to the accident of his mar- 
riage, his popularity with the monks, and the weakness of his 
character, which made him an instrument in the hands of 
a party. Public opinion soon decided that he was unfit to 
rule the empire. The year after the death of Nicephorus, 
Crumn invaded the empire with a numerous army, and took 
the town of Develtos. Michael left the capital accompanied 
by the Empress Procopia, in order to place himself at the 
head of the troops in Thrace; but the soldiers showed so 
much dissatisfaction at the presence of a female court, that the 
emperor turned back to Constantinople from Tzourlou. The 
Bulgarian king took advantage of the disorder which ensued 
to capture Anchialos, Berrhoea, Nicaea, and Probaton in 
Thrace ; and that province fell into such a state of anarchy, 
that many of the colonists established by Nicephorus in Philip- 
popolis and on the banks of the Strymon abandoned their 
settlements and returned to Asia. 

Crumn nevertheless offered peace to Michael, on the basis 
of a treaty concluded between the Emperor Theodosius III. 
and Comesius, prior to the victories of the Iconoclast princes. 
These terms, fixing the frontier at Meleona, and regulating 
the duties to be paid on merchandise in the Bulgarian king- 
dom, would have been accepted by Michael, but Crumn 
availed himself of his success to demand that all deserters 
and refugees should be given up. As the Bulgarians were in 
the habit of ransoming the greater part of their captives at 
the end of each campaign, and of killing the remainder, or 
selling them as slaves, this clause was introduced into the 
treaty to enable Crumn to gratify his vengeance against 
a number of refugees whom his tyranny had caused to 
quit Bulgaria, and who had generally embraced Christianity. 
The emperor remitted the examination of these conditions to 
the imperial council, and in the discussion which ensued, he, 
the Patriarch Nicephoros, and several bishops, declared them- 
selves in favour of the treaty, on the ground that it was 
necessary to sacrifice the refugees for the safety of the natives 
of the empire who were in slavery in Bulgaria, and to preserve 

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the population from further suffering. But Theoctistos the 
master of the palace, the energetic Theodore Studita, and 
a majority of the senators, declared that such conduct would 
be an indelible stain on the Roman empire, and would only 
invite the Bulgarians to recommence hostilities by the fear 
shown in the concession. The civilians declared it would be 
an act of infamy to consign to death, or to a slavery worse than 
death, men who had been received as subjects ; and Theodore 
pronounced that it was an act of impiety to think of deliver- 
ing Christians into the hands of pagans, quoting St. John, 
'All that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him 
that Cometh to me I will in no wise cast out ^.' The emperor, 
from motives of piety, yielded to the advice of Theodore. 
Could he have adopted something of the firm character of 
the abbot, he might, in all probability, either have obtained 
peace on his own terms, or secured victory to his arms. 

While the emperor was debating at Constantinople, Crumn 
pushed forward the siege of Mesembria, which fell into his 
hands in November 812. He acquired great booty, as the 
place was a commercial town of considerable importance ; 
and he made himself master of twenty-six of the brazen 
tubes used for propelling Greek fire, with a quantity of the 
combustible material prepared for this artillery. Yet, even 
after this alarming news had reached Constantinople, the weak 
emperor continued to devote his attention to ecclesiastical 
instead of to military affairs. He seems to have felt that 
he was utterly unfit to conduct the war in person ; yet 
the Byzantine or Roman army demanded to be led by the 

In the spring of 813, Michael had an army in the field 
prepared to resist the Bulgarians; and Crumn, finding that 
his troops were suffering from a severe epidemic, retreated. 
The emperor, proud of his success, returned to his capital. 
The epidemic which had interrupted the operations of the 
enemy was ascribed to the intervention of Tarasios, who had 
been canonized for his services to orthodoxy; and the em- 
peror, in order to mark his gratitude for his unexpected 
acquisition of military renown, covered the tomb of St. Tara- 
sios with plates of silver weighing ninety-five lb., an act of 

* St. John, vi. 37. 

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piety which added to the contempt the army already felt for 
their sovereign's courage and capacity. 

In the month of May, Michael again resumed the command 
of the army, but instead of listening to the advice of the 
experienced generals who commanded the troops, he allowed 
himself to be guided by civilians and priests, or by the sugges- 
tions of his own timidity. There were at the time three able 
officers in the army — ^^Leo the Armenian, the general of the 
Anatolic theme ; Michael the Amorian, who commanded one 
wing of the army; and John Aplakes, the general of the 
Macedonian troops. Leo and Aplakes urged the emperor to 
attack the Bulgarians ; but the Amorian, who was intriguing 
against Theoctistos the master of the palace, seems to have 
been disinclined to serve the emperor with sincerity. The 
Bulgarians were encamped at Bersinikia, about thirty miles 
from the Byzantine army; a^id Michael, after changing his 
plans more than once, resolved at last to risk a battle. 
Aplakes, who commanded the Macedonian and Thracian 
troops, consisting chiefly of hardy Sclavonian recruits, defeated 
the Bulgarian division opposed to him; but a panic seized 
a part of the Byzantine army; jmd Leo, with the Asiatic 
troops, was accused of allowing Aplakes to be surrounded and 
slain, when he might have saved him. Leo certainly saved his 
own division, and made it the rallying-point for the fugitives ; 
yet he does not appear to have been considered guilty of any 
neglect by the soldiers. The emperor fled to Constantinople, 
while the defeated army retreated to Adrianople. 

Michael assembled his ministers in the capital, and talked 
of resigning his crown ; for he deemed his defeat a judgment 
for mounting the throne of his brother-in-law. Procopia and 
his courtiers easily persuaded him to abandon his half-formed 
resolution. The army in the mean time decided the fate of 
the empire. Leo the Armenian appeared alone worthy of 
the crown. The defeated troops saluted him Emperor, and 
marched to Constantinople, where nobody felt inclined to 
support the weak Michael; so that Leo was acknowledged 
without opposition, and crowned in St. Sophia's on the nth 
July, 813. 

The dethroned emperor was compelled to embrace the 
monastic life, and lived unmolested in the island of Prote, 
where he died in 845. His son, Theophylactus, who had 

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AJ>. 813-820.] 

been crowned as his colleague, and his brother Ignatius, were 
emasculated and forced to become monks. Ignatius became 
Patriarch of Constantinople in the reign of Michael IIL^ 

Sect. III. — Leo V. {the Armentan)\ A.D. 813-820. 

Policy of Leo. — ^Treacherous attack on Cnimn. — Victory over Bulgarians. — Affairs 
of Italy and Sicily. — Moderation in ecclesiastical contests. — Council favourable 
to Iconoclasts. — Impartial administration of justice. — Conspiracy against Leo. 
— His assassination. 

When Leo entered the capital, the Patriarch Nicephoros 
endeavoured to convert the precedent which Michael I. had 
given, of signing a written declaration of orthodoxy, into an 
established usage of the empire ; but the new emperor excused 
himself from signing any document before his coronation, and 
afterwards he denied the right to require it ^. Leo was in- 
clined to favour the Iconoclasts, but he was no bigot. The 
Asiatic party in the army and in the administration, which 
supported him, were both enemies to image-worship. To 
strengthen the influence of his friends was naturally the first 
step of his reign. Michael the Amorian, who had warmly 
supported his election, was made a patrician. Thomas, 
another general, who is said to have been descended from 
the Sclavonian colonists settled in Asia Minor, was appointed 
general of the federates *. Manuel, an Armenian of the noble 
race of the Mamiconians, received the command of the 
Armenian troops, and subsequently of the Anatolic theme ^. 

■ Awtoris incerti HUt^ at the end of Theoph., 451 ; Contin., in Script, post 
Tk§oph. 13. 

• Leo was the son of Bardas, a patrician of the distinguished Armenian family 
of the Ardzronnians. Genesius, 16 ; Chamich, i. 599. 

' Theophanes (426) says Leo gave the Patriarch a written assurance of his 
orthodoxy, and he is followed by the anonymous chronicle (431), by Leo Gram- 
maticus (445), by Symeon Mag. (40a), and Georg. Mon. (499). But the anony- 
mous history written by the order of Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the Scriptont 
poti Thtopkanem (18), and Genesius (12), give the statement in the text, which is 
confinned by Ignatius in his life of the Patriarch Nicephoros. Acta Sanet. Mart, 
71a The authority of the Patriarch Ignatius far outweighs every other. Schlosser, 
391 ; Neander, iii. 532. The Emperor Leo doubtless made the customary general 
declaration of orthodoxy contained in the coronation oath, which had appeared 
so vague as to require the written supplement signed by his predecessor. 

* Genesius, 3, 14 ; Contin., in Script, post Theoph, 32. We must conclude that 
one of the parents of Thomas was a Sclavonian, the other an Armenian (see p. 130, 
mote a). 

» Contin. 15, 68, 

VOL. II. I Of^c^n\o 

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At Christmas the title of Emperor was conferred on Sembat, 

the eldest son of Leo, who then changed his name to Con- 


Leo was allowed little time to attend to civil business, for, 
six days after his coronation, Crumn appeared before the 
walls of Constantinople. The Bulgarian king encamped in 
the suburb of St. Mamas ^, and extended his lines from the 
Blachemian to the Golden Gate ; but he soon perceived that 
his army could not long maintain its position, and he allowed 
his troops to plunder and destroy the property of the citizens 
in every direction, in order to hasten the conclusion of a treaty 
of peace. Leo was anxious to save the possessions of his 
subjects from ruin, Crumn was eager to retreat without losing 
any of the plunder his army had collected. A treaty might 
have been concluded, had not Leo attempted to get rid of his 
enemy by an act of the basest treachery. A conference was 
appointed, to which the emperor and the king were to repair, 
attended only by a fixed number of guards. Leo laid a plot 
for assassinating Crumn at this meeting, and the Bulgarian 
monarch escaped with the greatest difficulty, leaving his chan- 
cellor dead, and most of his attendants captives. This 
infamous act was so generally approved by the perverted 
religious feelings of the Greek ecclesiastics, that the historian 
Theophanes, an abbot and holy confessor, in concluding his 
chronological record of the transactions of the Roman em- 
perors, remarks that the empire was not permitted to witness 
the death of Crumn by this ambuscade, in consequence of the 
multitude of the people's sins ^. 

The Bulgarians avenged the emperor's treachery on the 
helpless inhabitants of the empire in a terrible manner. They 
began by destroying the suburb of St. Mamas ; palaces, 
churches, public and private buildings were burnt to the 
ground ; the lead was torn from the domes, which were fire- 
proof ; the vessels taken at the head of the port were added 
to the conflagration ; numerous beautiful works of art were 
destroyed, and many carried off, among which particular men- 
tion is made of a celebrated bronze lion, a bear, and a hydra ^ 

^ Between Eyoub and the walls of Constantinople. 

» Theoph. 427. 

» Theoph. 427; Leo Grammaticus, 446; Anonym. He Ant, Const. Nos. 163, 
346, in Banduri, Imp, Orient, ii. 58, 87, edit. Paris; and Gyllius, De Topograph, 
Constant.^ ibid. 416. 

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The Bulgarians then quitted their lines before Constantinople, 
and marched to Selymbria, destroying on their way the 
immense stone bridge over the river Athyras, (Karasou,) 
celebrated for the beauty of its construction^. Selymbria, 
Rhedestos, and Apres were sacked ; the country round Ganas 
was ravaged, but Heraclea and Panion resisted the assaults 
of the invaders. Men were everywhere put to the sword, 
while the young women, children, and cattle were driven away 
to Bulgaria. Part of the army penetrated into the Thracian 
Chersonese, and laid waste the country. Adrianople was 
compelled to surrender by famine, and after it had been plun- 
dered, the barbarians retired unmolested with an incredible 
booty and an innumerable train of slaves. 

The success of this campaign induced a body of 30,000 
Bulgarians to invade the empire during the winter. They 
captured Arcadiopolis ; and though they were detained for 
a fortnight, during their retreat, by the swelling of the river 
Rheginas ^ (Bithyas,) Leo could not venture to attack them. 
They r^ained the Bulgarian frontier, carrying away fifty 
thousand captives and immense booty, and leaving behind 
them a terrible scene of desolation ^. 

Emboldened by the apparent weakness of the empire, 
Crumn made preparations for besieging Constantinople, by 
collecting all the machines^of war then in use *. Leo thought 
it necessary to construct a new wall beyond that in exist- 
ence at the Blachemian gate, and to add a deep ditch, for in 
this quarter the fortifications of the capital appeared weak. 
Crumn died before the opening of the campaign ; and Leo, 
having by the greatest exertion at last collected an army 
capable of taking the field, marched to Mesembria. There 
he succeeded in surprising the Bulgarians, by a night attack 
on their camp. The defeat was most sanguinary. The Bul- 
garian army was annihilated, and the place where the dead 
were buried was long called the Mountain of Leo, and avoided 
by the Bulgarians as a spot of evil augury. After this victory 

* Steph. Byz. 'A^i^ ; Plinii H, N, iv. 47. 

• Erginus? Scylax. aS; Plinii H, iV., ubi supra, Hierodes (31) and Constant. 
Porphvr. {De Them, ii. 2) mention Ganos. 

• The booty consisted of Armenian blankets, carpets, clothing, and brazen pans. 
Symeon Mag. 410 ; Auet, mcert. Hist., at the end of Theophanes, 434. 

* Auet, ineert, ffist, 434, where a curious list of the ancient machines then in 
use is givoi. 

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the emperor invaded Bulgaria, which he ravaged with as much 

cruelty as Crumn had ever shown in plundering the empire. 

At last a truce for thirty years was concluded with Mortagon, 

the new king. The power of these dangerous neighbours was 

so weakened by the recent exertions they had made, and by 

the wealth they had acquired, that for many years they were 

disposed to remain at peace. 

The influence of the Byzantine emperors in the West, 
though much diminished by the conquests of Charlemagne, 
the independence of the popes, and the formation of two 
Saracen kingdoms in Africa and Spain, continued, neverthe- 
less, to be very great, in consequence of the extensive mer- 
cantile connections of the Greeks, who then possessed the 
most lucrative part of the commerce of the Mediterranean. 

At this time the Aglabites of Africa and the Ommiades of 
Spain ruled a rebellious and ill-organized society of Moham- 
medan chiefs of various races, which even arbitrary power 
could not bend to the habits of a settled administration. 
Both these states sent out piratical expeditions by sea, when 
their incursions by land were restrained by the warlike power 
of their neighbours. Michael I. had been compelled to send 
an army to Sicily, to protect it from the incursions of pirates 
both from Africa and Spain. Lampedosa had been occupied 
by Saracen corsairs, and many Gneek ships captured, before 
the joint forces of the Dukes of Sicily and Naples, with the 
vessels from Amalfi and Venice, defeated the plunderers, and 
cleared the sea for awhile. The quarrels of the Aglabites and 
Ommiades induced the former to conclude a truce for ten 
years with Leo, and to join the naval forces of the Greeks and 
Venetians in attacking the Spanish Saracens ^. 

The disturbances which prevailed in the East during the 
caliphate of Almamun insured tranquillity to the Asiatic 
frontier of the empire, and allowed Leo to devote his whole 
attention to the internal state of his dominions. The church 
was the only public institution immediately connected with 
the feelings of the whole population. By its conduct the 
people were directly interested in the proceedings of the impe- 
rial government. Ecclesiastical affairs, offering the only field 
for the expression of public opinion, became naturally the 

^ Schlosser, 403 ; Pope Leo's letter in Coleti, Acta S, Coneil, ix. 157. 

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centre of all political ideas and party struggles. Even in an 
administrative point of view, the regular organization of the 
clergy under parish priests, bishops, and provincial councils, 
gave the church a degree of power in the state which com- 
pelled the emperor to watch it attentively. The principles of 
ecclesiastical independence inculcated by Theodore Studita, 
and adopted by the monks, and that portion of the clergy 
which favoured image-worship, alarmed the emperor. This 
party inculcated a belief in contemporary miracles, and in 
the daily intervention of God in human affairs. All prudence, 
all exertion on the part of individuals, was as nothii^ com- 
pared to the favour of some image accidentally endowed with 
divine grace. That such images could at any time reveal the 
existence of a hidden treasure, or raise the possessor to high 
official rank, was the common conviction of the superstitious 
and enthusiastic, both among the laity and the clergy ; and 
such doctrines were especially favoured by the monks, so that 
the people, under the guidance of these teachers, became 
"Negligent of moral duties and regular industry. The Icono- 
clasts themselves appealed to the decision of Heaven as 
favouring their cause, by pointing to the misfortunes of Con- 
stantine VI., Irene, NicejJiorus, and Michael I., who had 
supported image-worship, and contrasting their reigns with 
the victories and peaceful end of Leo the Isaurian, Constan- 
dne v., and Leo IV., who were the steady opponents of 

Leo v., though averse to image-worship, possessed so much 
prudence and moderation, that he was inclined to rest satisfied 
with the direct acknowledgment that the civil power possessed 
the right of tolerating religious difference. But the army 
demanded the abolition of image-worship, and the monks the 
persecution of Iconoclasts. Leo's difficulties, in meddling 
with ecclesiastical affairs, gave his policy a dubious character, 
and obtained for him, among the Greeks, the name of the 
Chameleon. Several learned members of the clergy were 
opposed to image-worship ; and of these the most eminent 
were the abbot John Hylilas, and Antony, bishop of Syllaeum. 
John, called, from his superior learning, the Grammarian, was 
accused by the ignorant of studying magic ; and the nickname 
of Lekanomantis was given him, because he was said to read 
the secrets of futurity in a brazen basin. The Iconoclasts 

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were also supported by Theodotos Kassiteras, son of the 
patrician Michael Melissenos, whose sister had been the third 
wife of Constantine V. These three endeavoured to persuade 
Leo to declare openly against image-worship. On the other 
hand, the majority of the Greek nation was firmly attached 
to image-worship; and the cause was supported by the 
Patriarch, by Theodore Studita, and a host of monks. The 
emperor flattered himself that he should be able to bring 
about an amicable arrangement to ensure general toleration, 
and commanded John Hylilas to draw up a report of the 
opinions expressed by the earliest fathers of the church on the 
subject of image-worship. 

As soon as he was in possession of this report, he asked the 
Patriarch to make some concessions on the subject of pictures, 
in order to satisfy the army and preserve peace in the church. 
He wished that the pictures should be placed so high as to 
prevent the people making the gross display of superstitious 
worship constantly witnessed in the churches. But the Patri- 
arch boldly pronounced himself in favour of images and 
pictures, whose worship, he declared, was authorized by im- 
memorial tradition, and the foundation of the orthodox faith 
was formed according to the opinion of the church on tradition 
as well as on Holy Scripture. He added that the opinions of 
the church were inspired by the Holy Spirit as well as the 
Scriptures. The emperor then proposed a conference between 
the two parties, and the clergy were thrown into ^ state of the 
greatest excitement at this proposition, which implied a doubt 
of their divine inspiration. The Patriarch summoned his 
partisans to pass the night in prayers for the safety of the 
church, in the cathedral of St. Sophia. The emperor had 
some reason to regard this as seditious, and he was alarmed 
at the disorders which must evidently arise from both parties 
appealing to popular support. He summoned the Patriarch 
to the palace, where the night was spent in controversy. 
Theodore Studita was one of those who attended the Patriarch 
on this occasion, and his steady assertion of ecclesiastical 
supremacy rendered him worthy, from his bold and un- 
compromising views, to have occupied the chair of St. Peter. 
He told the emperor plainly that a temporal sovereign had no 
authority to interfere with the doctrines of the church, since 
his rule only extended over the civil and military government 

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AJ>. 813-820.] 

of the empire. The church had full authority to govern itself. 
Leo was enraged at this boldness, and dissatisfied with the 
conduct of the Patriarch, who anathematized Antony, the 
bishop of Syllaeum, as the leader of the Iconoclasts ; but for 
the present the clergy were only required to abstain from 
holding public assemblies. 

The Iconoclasts, however, now began to remove images and 
pictures from the churches in possession of the clei^ of their 
party, and the troops on several occasions insulted the image 
over the entrance of the imperial palace, which had been 
removed by Leo the Isaurian and replaced by Irene. The 
emperor now ordered it to be again removed, on the ground 
that this was necessary to avoid public disturbance. These 
acts induced Theodore Studita to call on the monks to 
subscribe a declaration that they adhered firmly to the 
doctrines of the church, with respect to image-worship, as 
then established. The emperor, alarmed at the danger of 
causing a new schism in the church, but feeling himself called 
upon to resist the attacks now made on his authority, de- 
termined to relieve the civil power from the necessity of 
engaging in a contest with the ecclesiastical, by assembling 
a general council of the church, and leaving the two parties 
in the priesthood to settle their own differences. As he was 
in doubt how to proceed, it happened that both the Patriarch 
and the abbot, John Hylilas, were officiating together in the 
Christmas ceremonies while Leo was present, and that John, 
in the performance of his duty, had to repeat the words of 
Isaiah, 'To whom then will ye liken God-? or what will ye 
compare unto him ? The workman melteth a graven image, 
and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth 
silver chains ^.* In pronouncing these words he turned to the 
emperor, and uttered them in the most emphatic manner. 
A few days after this scene, a band of mutinous soldiers broke 
into the patriarchal palace, destroyed the pictures of the 
saints with which the building was adorned, and committed 
other disorders, until they were driven out by the regular 
guard. At length, in the month of April 815, Leo ordered 
a provincial synod to assemble at Constantinople, and before 
this assembly the Patriarch Nicephoros was brought by force, 

* Isaiah, xl. 18, 19. 

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[Bk.I.ClLll. $3. 

for he denied its competency to take cognizance of his con- 
duct. He was deposed, and confined in a monastery which 
he had founded, where he survived twelve years — ^a time 
which he passed more usefully for the world, in compiling 
the historical works we possess, than he could have passed 
them amidst the contests of the patriarchal dignity^. 

The bigotry of both parties rendered the moderate policy 
of the emperor of no effect ; and public attention became so 
exclusively absorbed by the state of the church, that it was 
impossible for him to remain any longer neutral. His first 
decided step was to nominate a new Patriarch hostile to 
image-worship; and he selected Theodotos Melissenos, a 
layman already mentioned, who held a high post in the 
imperial court The example of the election of Tarasios 
prevented the votaries of image-worship disputing the legality 
of the election of a layman ; but they refused to acknowledge 
Theodotos, on the ground that the deposition of Nicephoros 
was illegal, and that he was consequently still their lawful 
Patriarch. Theodotos was nevertheless ordained and con- 
secrated, A.D. 815. He was a man of learning and ability, 
but his habits as a military man and a courtier were said to 
be visible in his manners, and he was accused of living with 
too great splendour, keeping a luxurious table, and indulging 
habitually in society of too worldly a character. 

A general council of the church was held at Constantinople, 
in which the new Patriarch, and Constantine the son of Leo, 
presided ; for the emperor declined taking a personal part in 
the dispute, in order to allow the church to decide on ques- 
tions of doctrine without any direct interference of the civil 
power. This council re-established the acts of that held in 
754 by Constantine V., abolishing ims^e-worship, and it 
anathematized the Patriarchs Tarasios and Nicephoros, and 
all image-worshippers. The clergy, therefore, who adhered 
to the principles of the image-worshippers were, in conse- 
quence, deprived of their ecclesiastical dignities, and sent 

* Nicephoros died a.d. 8a8. His works are — Breviarium Historicum de RAus 
Oestis ah Obitu Mauricii ad Constantinum usque Copronymum, in the Bjrzantine col- 
lection, and a Chronographia' annexed to tne work of Syncellus. The Patriarch 
Fhotius, in a letter to the Emoeror Basil I., mentions that Leo treated the deposed 
Patriarch with indulgence. He enjoyed the use of his books and the society of 
his friends, as well as the possession of his private fortune. Photii Episiolat, 
No. 97, p. 136, edit. Lond. 

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JuD. 813-820.] 

into banishment ; but the party revolutions that had frequently 
occurred in the Greek church had introduced a dishonourable 
system of compliance with the reigning faction, and most of 
the clergy were readier to change their opinions than to quit 
their benefices \ This habitual practice of falsehood received 
the mild name of arrangement, or economy, to soften the 
public aversion to such conduct ^, 

The Iconoclast party, on this occasion, used its victory with 
imusual mildness. They naturally drove their opponents 
from their ecclesiastical offices ; and when some bold monks 
persisted in preaching against the acts of the council, they 
banished these non-conformists to distant monasteries ; but it 
does not appear that the civil power was called upon to 
enforce conformity with the customary rigour ^ The council 
decided that images and pictures were to be removed from 
the churches, and if the people resisted their removal, or the 
clergy or monks replaced them, severe punishments were to 
be inflicted for this violation of the law. Cruelty was a 
feature in the Byzantine civil administration, without any 
impulse of religious fanaticism. 

Theodore Studita, who feared neither patriarch nor emperor, 
and acknowledged no authority in ecclesiastical affairs but 
the church, while he recognised nothing as the church but 
what accorded with his own standard of orthodoxy, set the 
decrees of this council at defiance. He proceeded openly 
through the streets of the capital, followed by his monks in 
solenm procession, bearing aloft the pictures which had been 
removed from the churches, to give them a safe asylum 
within the walls of the monastery of Studion. For this con- 
tempt for the law he was banished by the emperor to Asia 
Minor ; and his conduct in exile affords us a remarkable proof 
of the practical liberty the monks had acquired by their 
honest and steady resistance to the civil power. All eyes 
were fixed on Theodore as the leader of the monastic party ; 
and so great was the power he exerted over public opinion, 
that the emperor did not venture to employ any illegal 

* The historian Theophanes, author of the Chronography, which has been at 
times our only, and often our best, guide in the preceding pages, was a noble 
exception to the system of compliance. He was among those who were banished, 
and died shortly after in exile in Samothrace. 

* OUmtofda was the word. Neander, iii. 541. 
» Photii Ep. No. 97. 

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severity against the bold monk he had imprisoned. Indeed, 

the administration of justice in the Byzantine empire seems 

never to have been more regular and equitable than during 

the reign of Leo the Armenian. 

Theodore from his prison corresponded not only with the 
most eminent bishops and monks of his party, and with 
ladies of piety and wealth, but also with the Pope, to whom, 
though now a foreign potentate, the bold abbot sent deputies, 
as if he were himself an independent authority in the Eastern 
church ^. His great object was to oppose the Iconoclasts in 
every way, and prevent all those over whose minds he 
exercised any influence from holding communion with those 
who conformed to their authority. One thing seems to have 
distressed and alarmed him, and he exerted all his eloquence 
to expose its fallacy. The Iconoclasts declared that no one 
could be a martyr for Christ's sake who was only punished by 
the civil power for image-worship, since the question at issue 
had no connection with the truth of Christianity. Theodore 
argued that the night of heresy was darker than that of 
ignorance, and the merit of labouring to illuminate it was at 
least as great. The Emperor Leo was, however, too prudent to 
give any of Theodore's party the slightest hope of obtaining 
the crown of martyrdom. He persisted in his policy of 
enforcing the decrees of the council with so much mildness, 
and balancing his own expressions of personal opinion with 
such a degree of impartiality, that he excited the dissatisfac- 
tion of the violent of both parties ^. 

Even in a corrupted and factious society, most men appreciate 
the equitable administration of justice. Interest and ambition 
may indeed so far pervert the feelings of an administrative or 
aristocratic class, as to make the members of such privil^ed 
societies regard the equal distribution of justice to the mass of 
the people as dangerous to order ; and the passions en- 
gendered by religious zeal may blind those under its influence 

* He seems to have been the chief mover in the foundation of the monastery of 
St. Praxedes at Rome, in Mvhich the Greek monks who fled from persecution were 
established by Pope Paschal. Anastasius, De Vitis Pont. 150. 

* The letters 01 Theodore Studita furnish information concerning the mildness 
of Leo's government. The fact that the banished abbot could carry on so exten- 
sive a correspondence, proves that the liberty guaranteed by the laws of the 
Roman empire, when these laws were eauitably administered, was not an idle 
phrase at Constantinople under the Iconoclasts. 

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AJ). 813-820.] 

to any injustice committed against men of different opinions. 
Hence it is that a government, to secure the administration 
of justice, must be established on a broader basis than 
administrative wisdom, aristocratic pre-eminence, or religious 
orthodoxy. In the Byzantine empire, public opinion can 
hardly be said to have existed among the mass of the 
population, whose minds and actions were regulated and 
enslaved by administrative influence, by the power of the 
wealthy, and by the authority of the clergy and the monks ^. 
One result of this state of society is visible in the violence of 
party passion displayed concerning insignificant matters in 
the capital ; and hence it arose that the political interests of 
the empire were frequently disconnected with the questions 
that exercised the greatest influence on the fate of the 
government. The moderation of Leo, which, had public 
opinion possessed any vitality, ought to have rendered his 
administration popular with the majority of his subjects in 
the provinces, certainly rendered it unpopular in Constanti- 
nople. Crowds under the influence of passion and excitement, 
express the temporary feelings of the people before deliberation 
can acquire the power of fixing public opinion. Leo was 
hated by the Greeks as an Armenian and an Iconoclast ; and 
he was disliked by many of the highest officers in the state 
and the army for the severity of his judicial administration, 
and the strictness with which he maintained moral as well as 
military discipline, so that no inconsiderable number of the 
class who directed state affairs was disposed to welcome a 
revolution. Irene had governed the empire by eunuchs, who 
had put up everything for sale ; Nicephorus had thought of 
those reforms only that tended to fill the treasury; Michael I. 
had been the tool of a bigoted faction. All these sovereigns 
had accumulated opposition to good government. 

Leo undertook the task of purifying the administration, 
and he commenced his reforms by enforcing a stricter dispen- 
sation of justice. His enemies acknowledged that he put a 
stop to corruption with wonderful promptitude and ability. 

^ Id the Byzantine, as in the Roman empire, the administration, including the 
emperor and all his servants, or, as the servants of the state were called, his 
household, formed a class apart from the inhabitants of the empire, governed 
by different laws, while the subjects under the civil laws of Rome were again 
separated into the rich and the poor, o\ 8woto2 and oX ircviyrff, whom usage more 
than l^slation constituted into separate classes. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.II. 53. 

He restored the discipline of the army, he repressed bribery 

in the courts of justice, by strictly reviewing all judicial 

decisions, and he re-established an equitable system of 

collecting the revenue ^. He repaired the fortresses destroyed 

by the Bulgarians, and placed all the frontiers of the empire 

in a respectable state of defence. All this, it was universally 

acknowledged, was due to his personal activity in watching 

over the proceedings of his ministers. Even the Patriarch 

Nicephoros, whom he had deposed, gave testimony to his 

merits as an emperor. When he heard of Leo's assassination, 

he exclaimed, * The church is delivered from a dangerous 

enemy, but the empire has lost a useful sovereign.' 

The officers of the court, who expected to profit by a 
change of measures, formed a conspiracy to overthrow Leo's 
government, which was joined by Michael the Amorian, who 
had long been the emperor's most intimate friend. The 
ambition of this turbulent and unprincipled soldier led him to 
think that he had as good a right to the throne as Leo ; and 
when he perceived that a general opposition was felt in Con- 
stantinople to the emperor's conduct, his ambition got the 
better of his gratitude, and he plotted to mount the throne. 
It was generally reported that Leo had refused to accept the 
imperial crown, when proclaimed emperor by the army at 
Adrianople, from his knowledge of the difficulties with which 
he would have to contend, and that Michael forced him to 
yield his assent, by declaring that he must either accept the 
crown, or be put to death to make way for a new candidate. 
The turbulent character of Michael gave currency to this 

Michael's conduct had long been seditious, when at length 
his share in a conspiracy against the government was dis- 
covered, and he was tried, found guilty, and condemned to 
death. It is said by the chronicles that the court of justice 
left it to the emperor to order his execution in any way he 
might think proper, and that Leo condemned him to be 
immediately cast into the furnace used for heating the baths 
of the palace, and prepared to attend the execution in person. 

* A case of his personal decision, where the praetor had refused justice against 
a senator, is reported as a proof of his rigid attention to the equal administration 
of the law. Genesius, 8 ; Contin., in Script, post Tfuoph, 19. Mortneuil (i. 355) 
gives it from Bonefidius (7), who has extracted it from Cedrenus (ii. 491). 

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AJ>. 813-830.] 

It is needless to say that, though cruelty was the vice of the 
Byzantine court, we must rank this story as a tale fitter for 
the l^ends of the saints than for the history of the empire. 
The event took place on Christmas-eve, when the empress, 
hearing what was about to happen, and moved with com- 
passion for one who had long been her husband's intimate 
friend, hastened to Leo, and implored him to defer the 
execution until after Christmas-day. She urged the sin of 
participating in the holy communion with the cries of the 
dying companion of his youth echoing in his ear. Leo — who, 
though severe, was not personally cruel — yielded to his wife's 
entreaties, and consented with great reluctance to postpone 
the punishment, for his knowledge of the extent of the con- 
spiracy gave him a presentiment of danger. After giving 
orders for staying the execution, he turned to the empress 
and said, ' I grant your request : you think only of my 
eternal welfare ; but you expose my life to the greatest peril, 
and your scruples may bring misfortune on you and on our 

Michael was conducted back to his dungeon, and the key 
of his fetters was brought to Leo. It was afterwards told in 
Constantinople that during the night the emperor was unable 
to sleep. A sense of impending danger, disturbing his 
imagination, impelled him to rise from his bed, envelop 
himself in a mantle, and secretly visit the cell in which 
Michael was confined. There he found the door unlocked, 
and Michael stretched on the bed of his jailor, buried in 
profound sleep, while the jailor himself was lying on the 
criminars bed on the floor. The emperor's alarm was 
increased at this spectacle. He withdrew to consider what 
measures he should take to watch both the prisoner and 
the jailor. But Michael had already many partisans within 
the walls of the palace, and one of these having observed the 
emperor's nocturnal visit to the criminal's cell, immediately 
awakened Michael. There was not a moment to lose. A 
friendly confessor had been introduced into the palace to 
afford the condemned criminal the consolations of religion : 
this priest was hurried off to Theoctistos to announce that, 
unless a blow was instantly struck, Michael would at day- 
light purchase his own pardon by revealing the names 
of the principal conspirators. This message caused the 

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conspirators to resolve on the immediate assassination of 
the emperor. 

The imperial palace was a fortress separated from the 
city like the present sera]f of the sultan. It was the practice 
of Leo to attend matins in his chapel, and as it was Christmas- 
day, a number of the best singers in Constantinople were 
that morning admitted at a postern-gate before daybreak, in 
order to join in the celebration of the service, whose solemn 
chant was then the admiration of the Christian worlds 
Leo, who was of a religious turn of mind, delighted in 
displaying his deep sonorous voice in the choir. He delayed 
his measures for securing Michael and the jailor to hasten to 
the chapel, and the conspirators availed themselves of his 
presence during the celebration of divine service to execute 
their plans. Disguised as choristers, with daggers concealed 
in their clothes, they obtained admittance at the postern, and 
ranged themselves among the singers in the imperial chapel. 

The morning was dark and cold, and both the emperor and 
the officiating chaplain were enveloped in furred mantles, which, 
with the thick bonnets they wore as a protection against 
the damp, effectually concealed their faces. But as soon as 
the powerful voice of Leo was heard in the solemn hymns, 
the assassins pressed forward to stab him. Some, however, 
mistaking the chaplain for the emperor, wounded the priest, 
whose cries revealed the mistake, and then all turned on Leo, 
who defended himself for some time with a crucifix which he 
snatched up. His hand was soon cut off, and he fell before 
the communion-table, where his body was hewed in pieces. 

The assassins then hurried to the cell of Michael, whom they 
proclaimed emperor, and thus consummated the revolution 
for which he was under sentence of death. Few sovereigns of 
the Byzantine empire seem to have exerted themselves more 
sincerely than Leo V. to perform the duties of their station, 

* Charlemagne was profoundly affected by the solemn music of the Greek 
service. We may conclude that it bore a closer resemblance to the music of 
the Russian churdi of to-day than to the nasal melody of modem Greek psidmody. 
See the enthusiastic manner in which Joannes Cameniates speaks of Byzantine 
church-music in the tenth century. D€ Exeidio Tktstalomcensit c x., in Script, post 
Theopk. p. 326. [Still, the fact that, after the capture of Salonica in 1185, when 
the Greek priests chanted their service, the Norman soldiers howled out a chorus 
in imitation of beaten hounds, seems a sufficient proof of the nasal character of 
the ecclesiastical music of that period ; and it probably was traditional. Those 
who sing nasally, naturally admire nasal music. £d.] 

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A J). 8 1 3-8 2a] 

yet few have received less praise for their good qualities ; nor 
did his assassination create any reaction of public opinion in 
his favour. Though he died with the crucifix in his hand, 
he was condemned as if he had been a bigoted Iconoclast. 
His wife and children were compelled to adopt a monastic 

* For the reign of Leo V., see the anonymous author at the end of Theophanes ; 
Leo Grammaticus, 445 ; the continuator of Theophanes, by order of Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus, in Script, post Theoph.; Symeon Log. et Mag. 411, and Georg, 
Mon. 500, both in the Script, post Theoph.; Genesius; Cedrenus, 487; Zonaras, 
ii. 152; and the shorter chronicles. 

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The Amorian Dynasty, a.d. 820-867. 
Sect. I. — Michael II. {the Stammerer), A.D. 820-829. 

Birth of Michael II. — Rebellion of Thomas.— Loss of Crete and Sicily. — MichaeVs 
ecclesiastical policy. — Marriage and death. 

Michael II. was proclaimed emperor with the fetters on 
his limbs ; and the first spectacle of his reign was the jailor 
delivering him from a felon's bonds. When relieved from 
his irons, he proceeded to the church of St. Sophia, where he 
was crowned by the Patriarch. 

Michael II. was born in the lowest rank of society. He 
entered the army as a private soldier in early youth, but 
his attention to his duties, and his military talents, quickly 
raised him to the rank of general. His influence over the 
troops aided in placing Leo V. on the imperial throne. 
Amorium was his birthplace — an important and wealthy 
city, inhabited by a mixed population of various races and 
languages, collected together by trading interests^. The 
Phrygians, who formed the majority, still retained many 
native usages, and some religious ideas adverse to Greek 
prejudices. Many Jews had also been established in the 
city for ages, and a sect called the Athingans, who held 
that the touch of many things was a contamination, had 
numerous votaries 2. 

The low origin of Michael, and the half-suppressed 
contempt he disclosed for Greek learning, Roman pride, 
and ecclesiastical tradition, awakened some animosity in 

* See p. 14, note i. 

* The Athingans took their name from 0tyy6yw, and the allusion is to Colossians, 
iL a I, * Touch not, taste not, handle not.' 

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the breasts of the pedants, the nobles, and the orthodox of 
Constantinople*. It is not surprising, therefore, that the 
historians who wrote under the patronage of the enemies 
of the Amorian dynasty should represent its founder as a 
horse-jockey, a heretic, and a stammerer. As he showed 
no particular favour to the Greek party in the Byzantine 
church, his orthodoxy was questioned by the great body of 
the clergy; and as he very probably expressed himself with 
hesitation in the Greek language, as spoken at court, any 
calumny would find credit with the Hellenic populace, who 
have always been jealous of strangers, and eager to avenge, 
by words, the compliance they are generally too ready to 
yield in their actions to foreign masters. 

Michael, however, had sagacity to observe the difficulties 
which the various parties in the church and court might create 
to his administration. To gain time, he began by conciliating 
every party. The orthodox, headed by Theodore Studita 
and the exiled Patriarch Nicephoros, was the most powerful. 
He flattered these two ecclesiastics, by allowing them to 
return to the capital, and he even permitted Theodore to 
resume his functions as abbot of Studion ; but, on the other 
hand, he refused to adopt their suggestions for a reaction 
in favour of image-worship. He seems to have been naturally 
inclined to religious toleration, and he was anxious to repress 
all disputes within the pale of the church, as the best means 
of maintaining the public tranquillity. In order to give a 
public guarantee for the spirit of the civil power, which he 
desired should characterize his reign, he held a silention to 
announce toleration of private opinion in ecclesiastical ques- 
tions ; but it was declared that the existing laws against the 
exhibition of images and pictures in churches were to be 
strictly enforced*-^. The indifference of Michael to the 
ecclesiastical disputes which agitated a church, to many of 
whose doctrines he was at heart adverse, did not create so 
violent an opposition as the sincerer conduct of his predeces- 
sors, who banished images on religious grounds. 

* Ti^y *EXXijviK^ woU^viriv Jkairr^afif, Contin., in Script, post Theopk. 31. Abul* 
pharagias (CA. Syr. 150) says Michael was the son of a converted Jew. Niketes, 
in his life of Ignatius (Labbe, Concil. viii. 11 83), says he was of the Sabbatian 
heresy. Some modems wish to make both the emperor and the Athingans gipsies 
without any reason. 

* Pagi ad Baron. Aim, Eeclts, a.d. 8a i. 


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The elevation of a new emperor, who possessed few claims 
to distinction, awakened, as usual, the hopes of every ambi- 
tious general. A formidable rival appeared in the person of 
Thomas, the only officer of eminence who had remained 
faithful to the rebel Bardanes, when Leo and Michael deserted 
his standard. Thomas, as has been already mentioned, was 
appointed general of the federates by Leo V., but, owing to 
some circumstances which are not recorded, he had retired 
into the dominions of the caliph, and remained for some time 
on the borders of Armenia ^. His origin, whether Sclavonian 
or Armenian, by separating him in an unusual d^free from 
the ruling classes in the empire — for he was, like Michael, of a 
very low rank in society— caused him to be regarded as a 
friend of the people ; and all the subject races in the empire 
espoused his cause, which in many provinces took the form of 
an attack on the Roman administration, rather than of a 
revolution to place a new emperor on the throned This 
rebellion is remarkable for assuming more of the character of 
a social revolution than <rf an ordinary insurrection^. Thomas 
overran all Asia Minor without meeting with any serious 
opposition even on the part of the towns ; so that, with the 
exception of the Armeniac theme and Opsikioii, his authority 
was universally acknowledged, and the administration was 
conducted by his officers. He concluded an alliance with the 
Saracens to enable him to visit Antioch and receive the 
imperial crown from the hands of the Patriarch Job*. This 
alliance with the infidels tended to injure his popularity; and 
when he returned accompanied by large bodies of mercenary 
troops, collected from the Mohammedan tribes on the frontier, 
the public enthusiasm for his cause became sensibly dimin- 
ished. Thomas, too, feeling more confidence in the power of 

* Schlosser, Gesehiehte der bild. Kauer, 437. The letter of Michael to Louis k • 
Ddbonnaire, in Baronius, Ann. Eeclts, ix. p. 898, a.d. 824 ; Fleury, Hist, EccUt, 
lib. xlviii. c. 4. 

* Compare Genesius (3, 14) with Continuator {Script, post ThtopJk, 5), who says 
Thomas was bom at the lake Gazuras. The town of Gaziura, near the river Iris 
in Pontus, b mentioned by Strabo, xii. 3. p. 547. See Hamilton, Researches in 
Asia MinoTt i. 359. He is said to have lived long among the Saracens, and to 
have given himself out for Constantine VI. Some of the reports seem irrecon- 
cilable, and look as if the history of two persons had been confounded. 

' Contin., in Script, post Theoph, 4 : hvr€v$€v leal 9ovXm mrd 5coirorttir teat arpor 
Ti&rrjf itard ra^iirrov, icdi Xoxaydf /card arpartfyiTOv rip^ x*^ <poy&aay KoB^Kti^, 

* Contin. 35; Genesius, 15. 

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his army, began to show himself careless of the good-will of 
the people. 

The only manner of putting an end to the war was by 
taking Constantinople, and this Thomas prepared to attempt. 
An immense fleet was assembled at Lesbos. Gr^orios 
Pterotes, a relation of Leo V., who had been banished to 
Skyros by Michael, was sent into Thrace at the head of ten 
thousand men to prepare for the arrival of Thomas, who soon 
followed with the bulk of his army, and formed the siege of 
Constantinople. Michael had made preparations for sustain- 
ing a long si^e, and Thomas committed a serious error in 
attacking so strong a city, while the troops of the Armeniac 
theme and of Opsikion were in sufficient strength in his rear 
to interrupt his communications with the centre of Asia 
Minor. These troops maintained a constant communication 
with the garrison of Constantinople from the coast of Bithynia. 
The army of Thomas, though very numerous, was in part 
composed of an undisciplined rabble, whose plundering pro- 
pensities increased the difficulty of obtaining supplies. On the 
other hand, Constantinople, though closely invested, was well 
supplied with all kinds of provisions and stores, the inhabitants 
displayed gfreat firmness in opposing an enemy whom they 
saw bent on plunder, and Michael and his son Theophilus 
performed the duties of able generals. Two attempts were 
made to storm the fortifications, one during the winter, in 
821, and the other in the spring of 8aa ; both were equally 
unsuccessful, and entailed considerable loss on the besiegers. 
In the mean time the partisans of Michael collected a fleet of 
350 ships in the islands of the Archipelago and Greece ; and 
this force, having gained a complete victory over the fleet of 
Thomas, cut off" the communications of the besiegers with Asia. 

The Bulgarians, in order to profit by the civil war, invaded 
the empire, and plundered the country from which the rebels 
drew their supplies. Thomas marched to oppose them with a 
part of his army, but was defeated, and lost the greater part 
of his baggie. He was so much weakened by this defeat 
that Michael sallied out from Constantinople, again routed 
him, and compelled the rebel army to retire to Arcadiopolis, 
where Thomas was soon closely besieged ^. For five months 

» Genesiiu (19) and Georg. Mon. (in Scripi. post Thioph, 384) mention Arcadi- 

K % 

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the place was obstinately defended, but at last Thomas was 
delivered up by his own followers ; and his adopted son, who 
had been invested with the title of Emperor, was captured 
shortly after in Byza. Both were hanged after their limbs 
had been cut off^ This junction of a son with the reigning 
emperor as his successor had become a rule of the Byzantine 
constitution, which was rarely neglected by any sovereign. 
Two chiefs attached to the party of Thomas continued for 
some time to defend the towns of Kabala and Saniana in Asia 
Minor, until the latter place was betrayed by one who bar- 
gained to be appointed archbishop of Neocaesarea, a fact 
recorded in a satirical verse preserved by one of the Byzantine 
historians ^. 

This remarkable civil war lasted nearly three years, and is 
distinguished by some features of unusual occurrence from 
most of the great rebellions in the Byzantine empire. The 
large fleets collected on both sides prove that the population 
and wealth of the coasts and islands of the Archipelago had 
not declined under the administration of the Iconoclasts, 
though this part of the empire was likely to be least favoured 
by the central power, as having attempted to dethrone Leo III., 
and having always firmly supported the party of the image- 
worshippers ^ The most numerous partisans of Thomas, and 
those who gave the strong revolutionary impulse to the rebel- 
lion at its commencement, were that body of the Asiatic 
population which national distinctions or religious opinions 
excluded from participation in public and local affairs, and to 
whom even the ecclesiastical courts were shut, on account of 
their heretical opinions ; and to the ecclesiastical courts alone 
recourse could be had for the equitable administration of 
justice in some cases. The discontent of these classes, joined 
to the poverty created by excessive taxation, supplied the army 
of Thomas with those numerous bands of marauders, eager to 
seek revenge, who spread desolation far and wide, alarmed ail 
men possessing property, and ultimately ruined his enterprise. 

opolis. Contin. (31) and the later writers, Cedrenus and Zonaras, say Adrianople. 
Schlosser, 446, not€, 

* Michaers own letter to Louis le D^bonnaire is the authority for this cruelty, 
as well as the early historians. Baronius» uhi supra. 

' Saniana was in the mountains of the theme Charsianon. Constant. Porj^yr. 
De Them. lib. i. p. 11 ; De Adm. Imp. cap. 50; Contin., in Script, post Tksopk. 45. 

f Contin. 40 ; Genesius, 18. 

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AJ). 830-839.] 

The indiscipline of his troops, and his incapacity to apply any 
remedy to the financial oppression and religious intolerance 
against which the population of the Asiatic provinces had 
taken up arms, alienated the minds of all who expected to 
find in him an instrument for reforming the empire. But had 
Thomas really been a man of a powerful mind, he might have 
laid the foundation of a new state of society in the Eastern 
Empire, by lightening the burden of taxation, carrying out 
toleration for religious opinions, securing an impartial admin- 
istration of justice even to heretics, and giving every class of 
subjects, without distinction of nationality or race, equal 
security for their lives and property. The spirit of the age 
was, however, averse to toleration, and the sense of justice 
was so defective that these equitable principles could only 
have been upheld by the power of a well-disciplined mer- 
cenary army. 

The necessity of improving the condition of the people was 
not felt by Michael II., even when this rebellion was sup- 
pressed ; and though he saw that some reduction of taxation 
to the lower classes was required, he restricted the boon to the 
Anneniac theme and Opsikion, because these provinces had 
not joined Thomas in the civil war^; and even in them he 
only reduced the hearth-tax to one-half of the amount im- 
posed by Nicephorus I. The rest of the empire was oppressed 
more than usual, as a punishment. It is certain that this 
unfortunate rebellion caused an immense destruction of pro- 
perty in Asia Minor, and was no inconsiderable cause of the 
accumulation of property in immense estates, which began to 
depopulate the country, and prepare it for the reception of 
a new race of inhabitants. 

The state of society under every known government was at 
this period troubled by civil wars. The seeds of these con- 
vulsions may, therefore, be sought in some general cause 
affecting the relations of the various classes of men in the 
development of social progress, and so far it lay beyond the 
immediate influence of the political laws of the respective 
governments, whether Mohammedan or Christian. The frame 
of society in the Saracen and Frank empires betrayed as 
many signs of decay as in the Byzantine. One of the 

" Continn in Script, post Theoph. 34; Theoph. 411. 

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^ [§i. 

remarkable features of the age is the appearance of bands 
of men, so powerful as to set the existing governments every- 
where at defiance. These bands consisted in great part of 
men of what may be called the middle and higher classes of 
society, driven by dissatisfaction with their prospects in life to 
seek Aeir fortunes as brigands and pirates ; and the extent to 
which slavery and the slave-trade prevailed, afforded them 
a ready means of recruiting their forces with daring and 
desperate men. The feeling which in our days impels nations 
to colonize new countries and improve uncultivated lands, in 
the ninth century led the Saracens and Normans to ravage 
every country they could enter, destroy capital, and conse- 
quently diminish cultivation and population. 

Crete and Sicily, two of the most valuable provinces of the 
Byzantine empire, inhabited almost exclusively by Greeks, 
and both in a high state of civilization and prosperity, were 
conquered by the Saracens without offering the resistance 
that might have been expected from the wealth and numbers 
of the inhabitants. Indeed, we are compelled to infer that 
the change from the orthodox sway of the emperors of Con- 
stantinople to the domination of th; Mohammedans, was not 
considered by the majority of the Greeks of Crete and Sicily 
so severe a calamity as we generally believe. In almost 
every case in which the Saracens conquered Christian nations, 
history unfortunately reveals that they owed their success 
chiefly to the favour with which their progress was regarded 
by the mass of the people. To the disgrace of most Christian 
governments, it will be found that their administration was 
more oppressive than that of the Arabian conquerors. Op- 
pression commenced when the rude tribes of the desert 
adopted the corruptions of a ruling class. The inhabitants 
of Syria welcomed the first followers of Mahomet ; the Copts 
of Egypt contributed to place their country under the domina- 
tion of the Arabs ; the Christian Berbers aided in the conquest 
of Africa. All these nations were induced, by hatred of the 
government at Constantinople, to place themselves under the 
sway of the Mohammedans. The treachery of the nobles, 
and the indifference of the people, made Spain and the south 
of France an easy prey to the Saracens. The conquest of 
Crete and Sicily must be traced to the same causes, for if the 
mass of the people had not been indifferent to the change, the 


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Byzantine government could easily have retained possession of 
these valuable islands. The same disgraceful characteristic of 
Christian monarchies is also apparent at a much later period. 
The conquest of the Greeks, Servians, and Vallachians by the 
Othoman Turks was effected rather by the voluntary submis- 
sion of the mass of the Christians than by the power of the 
Mohammedans. This fact is rendered apparent by the 
effective resistance offered by the Albanians under Scander- 
b^. Church and state must divide between them this blot 
on Christian society, for it is difficult to apportion the share 
due to the fiscal oppression of Roman centralization and to 
the unrelenting persecution of ecclesiastical orthodoxy. 

Crete fell a prey to a band of pirates. The reign of Al 
Hakem, the Ommiade caliph of Spain, was disturbed by con- 
tinual troubles ; and some theological disputes having created 
a violent insurrection in the suburbs of Cordova, about 15,000 
Spanish Arabs were compelled to emigrate in the year 815. 
The greater part of these desperadoes established themselves 
at Alexandria, where they soon took an active part in the 
civil wars of Egypt. The rebellion of Thomas, and the 
absenoe of the naval forces of the Byzantine empire from the 
Archipelago, left tiie island of Crete unprotected. The Anda- 
lusian Arabs in Alexandria availed themselves of this circum- 
stance to invade the island, and form a settlement on it, in the 
year 823 ^ Michael was unable to expel these invaders, and 
an event soon happened in Egypt which added greatly to the 
strength of the Saracen colony. The victories of the lieute- 
nants of the Caliph Almamun compelled the remainder of the 
Andalusian Arabs to quit Alexandria ; and under the com- 
mand of Abou Hafs, who collected forty ships, they joined 
their countrymen in Crete, determined to make the new settle- 
ment their permanent home 2. It is said by the Byzantine 
writers that they commenced their conquest of the island by 
destroying their fleet, and constructing a strong fortified camp, 
surrounded by an immense ditch, from which it received the 
name of Chandak, now corrupted by the Western nations into 
Candia^ The construction of a new city, as the capital of 

* Contin., in Script, post Tkeoph. 35, 47 ; <jenesius, ai. The Saracens are said 
to have established themselves first at Suda. 

* Abou Hafs is called by the Greeks Apochaps. 

' The favourable disposition of a portion of the Cretans is indicated by the 


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their conquests, was part of the Saracen system of establishing 

their domination. The foundation of Cairo, Cairowan, Fez, 

Cufa, and Bagdad, was the result of this policy. A new state 

of society, and new institutions, were introduced with greater 

facility in a new residence. 

The Saracen pirates derived some facilities towards render- 
ing their conquests permanent, from the circumstance that 
their bands generally consisted of young men, destitute of 
domestic ties, who were seeking family establishments as well 
as wealth. It was thus that they became real colonists, to 
a much greater extent than is usually the case with conquerors 
in civilized countries. The ease, moreover, with which the 
Saracens, even of the highest rank, formed marriages with the 
lower orders, and the equality which reigned among the fol- 
lowers of the Prophet, presented fewer barriers to the increase 
of their number than prevailed in the various orders and 
classes of Byzantine society. The native population of Crete 
was in a stationary, if not a declining condition, at the time 
of the arrival of the Saracens, while these new colonists were 
introduced into the country under circumstances extremely 
favourable to a rapid increase of their numbers. History, 
however, rarely enables us to mark, from age to age, the 
increase and decrease of the different classes, tribes, and 
nations concerning whose affairs it treats, though no fact is 
more important to enable us to form a correct estimate of the 
virtues and vices of society, to trace the progress of civilization, 
and understand the foundations of political power. 

The Emperor Michael II. was at length, by the defeat of 
Thomas, enabled to make some attempts to drive the invaders 
out of Crete. The first expedition was intrusted to the com- 
mand of Photinos, general of the Anatolic theme, a man of 
high rank and family; it was also strengthened by a reinforce- 
ment under Damianos, count of the imperial stables and 
protospatharios ; but this expedition was completely defeated. 
Damianos was slain, and Photinos escaped with a single galley 
to Dia. The second attack on the Saracens was commanded 

tradition, that a native monk pomted out to the Saracens the site of Chandak ; 
and the power of the islanders to have offered a more effectual resistance than 
they did, is shown by one district obtaining leave to preserve its own laws and 
usages, without any interference on the part of the Saracens. This was probably 
Sphakia. Contin. 48; Genesius, ai. 

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by Krateros, the general of the Kibyrraiot theme, who was 
accompanied by a fleet of seventy ships of war. The Byzan- 
tine historians pretend that their army was victorious in a 
battle on shore, but that the Saracens, rallying during the 
night, surprised the Christian camp, and captured the whole 
fleet. Krateros escaped in a merchant vessel, but was pur- 
sued and taken near Cos, where he was immediately crucified 
by the Saracens. 

The Saracens, having established their sovereignty over the 
twenty-eight districts into which Crete was then divided, sent 
out piratical expeditions to plunder the islands of the 
Archipelago and the coasts of Greece. Michael, alarmed 
lest more of his subjects should prefer the Saracen to the 
Byzantine government, fitted out a well-appointed fleet to 
cruise in the Aegean Sea, and named Oryphas to command 
it. A squadron of well-appointed galleys having been 
collected, the services of the best soldiers in the empire 
were secured, by paying a bounty of forty byzants a man ; 
and with this experienced body of warriors on board, the 
Byzantine admiral scoured the Archipelago ^ The Saracen 
pirates from Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain, who had been 
stimulated by the successes of their countrymen to plunder 
the Greeks, were pursued and destroyed ; but Oryphas was 
unable to eff*ect Anything, when he attacked the Cretan 
colony on shore ^. This fleet was subsequently neglected ; 
and, in the first year of the reign of Theophilus, an imperial 
squadron was totally destroyed by the Saracens, in a naval 
engagement near Thasos, leaving the corsairs masters of the 
sea. The islands of the Archipel^o were then plundered, 
and immense booty in property and slaves was carried off*^. 
The Saracens retained possession of Crete for one hundred 
and thirty-five years. 

The conquest of Sicily was facilitated by the treachery of 
Euphemios, a native Greek of high rank, who is said to have 

^ It is remarkable, as a proof of the relative value of money, that the price 
of a substitute was fixed at 36 solidi by the Emperor Valens, a.d. 375. Cod, 
Tktod. viL 13. 7. This shows how little change four centuries and a half had 
made in the value of the circulating medium, and in the condition of the people 
throughout the Eastern Elmpire. Genesius, 23. Undoubtedly gold and silver 
mines must have been worked to a considerable extent, in order to maintain this 

* S3rmeoo Mag. 414. ' Con tin. 85. 


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carried off a nun, and whom the emperor ordered to be 
punished by the loss of his nose ; for though Michael himself 
espoused Euphrosyne, the daughter of Constantine VI., after 
she had taken the veil, he did not intend that any of his 
subjects should be allowed a similar license. Euphemios was 
informed of the emperor's order in time to save his nose, by 
exciting a sedition in Syracuse, his native city^. In this 
tumult, Gregoras the Byzantine governor was slain. Michael 
then deputed Photinos, whose unsuccessful expedition to 
Crete has been already mentioned, to supply the place of 
Gregoras, and carry on the war against the Saracens of 
Africa, whom Euphemios had already invited into Sicily, to 
distract the attention of the Byzantine military. Ziadet 
Allah, the Aglabite sovereign of Cairowan, had paid particular 
attention to his fleet, so that he was well prepared to carry on 
the war, and delighted to gain an entrance for his troops into 
Sicily. In June 827 his admiral effected a junction with the 
ships of Euphemios, who had been driven out of Syracuse, and 
the Saracens landed at Mazara. Photinos was defeated in a 
battle near Platana, and retreated to Enna. The Saracens 
occupied Girgenti, but they were not strong enough to com- 
mence offensive operations until the Byzantine fleet was 
driven off the coast by the arrival of a squadron of ships from 
Spain, which joined the Aglabites, and enabled fresh rein- 
forcements to arrive from Africa. The war was then carried 
on with activity: Messina was taken in 831; Palermo 
capitulated in Ae following year; and Enna was besi^ed, 
for the first time, in 836. The war continued with various 
success, as the invaders received assistance from Africa, and 
the Christians from Constantinople. The Byzantine forces 

^ The story that Euphemios carried off a nun looks somethmg like an invention 
of the orthodox, who wished to point out that the sin of Michael had been 
punished by a divine judgment. John the Deacon, in his history of the Bishops 
of Naples, only says Ihat he fled to Africa with his wife and son. Muratori, 
Script, Rer, Italicarum^ i. pars 3, p. 313. Euphemios is said to have been killed 
before the walls of Syracuse, as he was inviting the inhabitants to change the 
oppressive government of the Byzantine emperors for the lighter yoke of the 
Saracens. Cedrenus, ii. 512. [Amari, in his Storia dei Musuimani di SiciUa^ after 
comparing the Italian, Byzantme, and Musulman accounts of the story of Euphe- 
mios, shows that he had been involved in a rising of the discontented population, 
and that his mairiage to a nun, the truth of which Amari allows, was made 
a pretext for attack on the part of the Byzantine government (i. p. 349). Amari*s 
book is of great importance for the history of the loss of Sicily to the Eastern 
Empire. In chap. ix. of Book I. he gives an account of the condition of Sicily 
under the Byzantme emperors. £0.] 

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recovered possession of Messina, which was not permanently 
occupied by the Saracens until 843, The Emperor Theo- 
philus was too much engaged by his military operations in 
Asia Minor to send effectual aid to the Sicilians^; while his 
father Michael II. had been too fond of his ease on the throne 
to devote the requisite attention to the business of the distant 
provinces. Michael III. thought of nothing but his pleasures. 
At length, in the year 859, Enna was taken by the Saracens. 
Syracuse, in order to preserve its commerce from ruin, had 
purchased peace by paying a tribute of 50,000 byzants ; and 
it was not until the reign of Basil I., in the year 878, that it 
was compelled to surrender, and the conquest of Sicily was 
completed by the Arabs ^ Some districts, however, con- 
tinued, either by treaty or by force of arms, to preserve 
their municipal independence, and the exclusive exercise of 
the Christian religion, within their territory, to a later 
period ^ 

The loss of Crete and Sicily seems to have been viewed 
with strange apathy by the court at Constantinople. The 
reason of this is probably to be attnbuted to the circumstance 
that the surplus revenue was comparatively small, and the 
defence of these distant possessions required a military force 
which could not always be spared from the neighbourhood of 
the capital. The indifference of the statesmen of Constanti- 
nople was doubtless increased by the circumstance that a 
portion of the population, both in Crete and Sicily, had 
acquired a degree of municipal independence, which rendered 
it extremely adverse to the fiscal policy of the imperial 

The bold and indefatigable abbot, Theodore Studita, still 
struggled to establish the supremacy of the church over the 
emperor in religious and ecclesiastical affairs. He appears to 
deserve the credit of having discovered the necessity of 

* Theophilus seems to have named his brother-in-law, Alexis Mousel, Strat^os 
and Duke of Sicily, merely to send him into exile. Symeon Mag. 418. 

' Ckronicon Sicvlum; Carusius, Bibliotheea Hist, Regni Siciliae, 6. Symeon Mag. 
places the taking of Syracuse in the ninth year of Bi^il I., which would be nearly 
two years earlier. 

' The authorities for the conquest of Sicily are reviewed by Schlosser (Gesekichte 
dtr bad. Kaiser, 455) and Weil {Geschichtt dmr Chalifen, ii. 249). The Byzantine 
writers who lived nearest to the time conceal the facts, as the ultimate loss of 
the island reflected disgrace on Basil I., the grandfather of their patron Con- 
stantine VIL ^Porphyrogenitus). 

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creating a systematic restraint on the arbitrary authority of 
the sovereign ; but his scheme for making the ecclesiastical 
legislation superior to the executive power was defective, 
inasmuch as it sought to confer on the church a more 
irresponsible and dangerous authority than that of which the 
emperor would have been deprived. Experience had not yet 
taught mankind that no irresponsible power, whether it be 
intrusted to king or priest, in a monarchy or a republic, can 
be exercised without abuse. Until the law is superior to the 
executive government, there is no true liberty; but in the 
Byzantine empire the emperor was above the law, while the 
imperial officials and the clergy had a law of their own, so 
that the. people was doubly oppressed. 

The conduct of Michael in conducting ecclesiastical business 
indicates that he was not destitute of statesman-like qualities, 
though he generally thought rather of enjoying his ease on 
the throne than of fulfilling the duties of his high station \ 
During the civil war he was anxious to secure the good-will 
of the monks and of the Greek party in the church. He 
recalled Theodore from banishment, and declared himself in 
favour of perfect toleration. This was far from satisfying the 
enthusiastic abbot and the bigoted ecclesiastics. After the 
establishment of tranquillity they incited the image-worshippers 
to an open violation of the laws against presenting pictures to 
the adoration of the people. Theodore also engaged with 
fresh zeal in an extensive correspondence with all persons of 
influence whom he knew to be favourable to his party. The 
emperor ordered him to discontinue this correspondence, as of 
a seditious tendency; but the bold abbot ventured to argue 
the case with Michael himself in a long letter, which is pre- 
served in his works *. * 

The policy of forming friendly relations with the' western 
nations of Europe was every day becomii^ more apparent to 
the rulers of the Byzantine empire, as the political influence 
of the Popes extended itself, and the power of the western 
nations increased. Michael II., in order to prevent the 
discontented image-worshippers from receiving support from 
the Franks, opened negotiations with the Emperor Louis le 

* ConstantiDe Porphyrogenitus accuses Midiael of neglecting the interests of 
the empire in Dalmatia as much as in Sicily and Crete. Dt Adm, Imp, c. 29. 

* S. Theod. Stud. Epist,, et alia Scripta Dogmatica, Paris, i696» lib. ii. ep. 199. 

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D^bonnaire, in the hope of obtaining a condemnation of 
image-worship, similar to that of Charlemagne. In the year 
824, an embassy, bearing a vainglorious and bombastical 
letter, announcing the defeat of Thomas, reached the court 
of Louis ^. In this epistle Michael recapitulates the religious 
principles which ought to guide the emperors of the Romans 
in their ecclesiastical affairs. He alludes to the condemna- 
tion of image-worship by the council of Frankfort, and 
declares that he has not destroyed holy images and pictures, 
but only removed them to such an elevation as was necessary 
to prevent the abuses caused by popular superstition 2. He 
considers the councils held for the condemnation of image- 
worship merely as local synods, and fully recognises the 
existence of a higher authority in general councils of the 
church, giving, at the same time, his own confession of faith, 
in terms which he knew would secure the assent of Louis and 
the Frank clergy. He then solicits the Frank emperor to 
induce the Pope to withdraw his protection from the rebellious 
image-worshippers who had fled from the Byzantine empire to 
Rome. A synod was convoked at Paris in consequence of 
this communication, which condemned the worship of images 
in the same terms as the Caroline Books, and blamed the 
second council of Nicaea for the superstitious reverence it had 
shown for images, but, at the same time, approved of the 
rebuke given to the Eastern emperors, for their rashness in 
removing and destroying images, by Pope Hadrian, a. d. 825. 
The Emperor Louis was also requested by the synod to 
forward a letter to Pope Eugenius, inviting him to write to 
the Emperor Michael, in order to re-establish peace and unity 
in the Christian church. But the Pope, the two emperors, 
and Theodore Studita, were all afraid of plunging into 
ecclesiastical discussions at this period ; for public opinion 
had been so exercised in these polemics, that it was impos- 
sible to foresee the result of the contest. Matters were 
therefore allowed to go on during the reign of Michael 
without any open rupture. The imprisonment of Methodios, 

^ For this letter, see Baronius, torn. ix. a.d. 824; Coleti, Condi, ix. 642 ; Mansi, 
Comtil. xiv. 419. 

' Pictures were sometimes made godfathers and godmothers at the baptism of 
children . The sacramental wine was mixed with paint scraped from the figures 
of saints, and the consecrated bread was placed on the hand of the image to 
nuke it co-partaker in the sacrament Neander, ill. 546. 

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afterwards Patriarch of Constantinople, and the condemnation 

to death of Euthymios, bishop of Sardis, were the only acts 

of extreme severity with which the image-worshippers could 

reproach Michael ; and these seem to have originated from 

political and party motives rather than from religious opinions, 

though the zeal of these ecclesiastics rendered them eager to 

be considered as martyrs \ 

The marriage of Michael with Euphrosyne, the daughter of 
Constantine VI., who had already taken the veil, was also 
made a ground for exciting public reprobation against the 
emperor. It is probable, however, that more importance is 
given to this marriage, as a violation of religion, by later 
writers, than it received among contemporaries. The Patri- 
arch absolved Euphrosyne from her vows, and the senate 
repeatedly solicited the emperor to unite himself with the 
last scion of Leo the Isaurian, the second founder of the 
Eastern Empire. Michael affected to be averse to second 
marriages, and to yield only to the public wish. That the 
marriage of the emperor with a nun excited the animosity 
of the monks, who r^arded marriage as an evil, and second 
marriages as a delict, is very natural ; and it would, of course, 
supply a fertile source of calumnious gossip to the enemies of 
the Amorian dynasty. 

Michael II. died in October 829, and his body, placed in a 
sarcophagus of green Thessalian marble, was buried in the 
sepulchral chapel erected by Justinian in the Church of the 
Holy Apostles '. 

Sect. W.—Theophilus, a. d. 829-842. 

Anecdotes concerning the emperor's love of justice. — Concerning his marriage. — 
Ecclesiastical persecution. — Love of art. — Colony on the Don. — Saracen 
war. — ^Theophilus destroys 2^petra.— Motassem destroys Amorium. — ^Death 
of Theophilus. 

No emperor ever ascended the throne of Constantinople 
with greater personal and political advantages than Theo- 
philus. His education had been the best the age could 

• Contin., in Script, pott Tkeopk, 31 ; Genesius, 33. 
' Contin., in Script, post Theopk, 5 a. 


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supply, and he possessed considerable talent and great 
industry. The general direction of his education had been 
intrusted to John the Grammarian, one of the most accom- 
plished as well as the most learned men of the time ^. In 
arts and arms, in law and theology, the emperor was equally 
well instructed : his taste made him a lover of poetry, music, 
and architecture ; his courage rendered him a brave soldier, 
his sense of justice a sound legislator : but his theology 
made him a stem bigot ; and a discontented temperament of 
mind prevented his accomplishments and virtues from pro- 
ducing a harmonious union. All acknowledged his merit, 
none seemed affectionately attached to his person ; and in the 
midst of his power he was called the Unfortunate. During his 
father's lifetime he had been intrusted with an active share in 
the government, and had devoted particular attention to the 
ecclesiastical department. He embraced the party of the 
Iconoclasts with fervour ; and though his father endeavoured 
to moderate his zeal, his influence seems to have produced 
the isolated acts of persecution which occurred during the 
reign of Michael, and were at variance with that emperor's 
general policy, 

Theophilus observed that the population of the empire was 
everywhere suffering from the defects of the central govern- 
ment, and he was anxious to remedy the evil. He erroneously 
attributed the greatest part of the sufferings of the people to 
the corruption of the administration, instead of ascribing it to 
the fact that the central authorities assumed duties which 
they were unable to execute, and prevented local bodies, who 
could easily have performed these duties in an efficient 
manner, from attempting to undertake them. Theophilus, 
however, justly believed that a great reform might be effected 
by improving the administration of justice, and he set about 
the task with vigour ; still many of his measures for enforcing 
equitable conduct on the part of the judges were so strongly- 
marked with personality, that his severity, even when necessary 

' John Hylilas, as has been already mentioned (p. 117), was called Lekanomant 
b^ the people, because he was said to use a polished basin for the purpose of 
divination. He was Patriarch of Constantinople from 83a to 843. He was 
a member of the distinguished family of the Morocharzanians. Contin. 96; 
Cedrenus, 536. Saint-Mutin conjectures that this family was of Armenian origin, 
and his brother's name was Arsaber, which at least is an Armenian name. 
Contin. 97 ; Le Bean, xiii. 14. 

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was stigmatized as cruel. He was in the habit of riding 
through the streets of Constantinople on a weekly visit to the 
church of St. Mary at Blachem, in order to afford his subjects 
a public opportunity of presenting such petitions as might 
otherwise never reach his hands ^. A similar practice is per- 
petuated in the Othoman empire to this day. The sultan 
pays a public visit to one of the principal mosques of his 
capital weekly for the same purpose. In both cases it may 
be received as a proof of the want of a better and more 
systematic control over the .judicial administration of a mighty 
empire. There was no emperor, to parade the streets of 
provincial towns, where control was most wanted ; and there 
is no substitute for the sultan's procession to the mosque in 
the provincial cities of Turkey. 

The first proof Theophilus gave of his love of justice was 
so strangely chosen, that it was represented as originating in 
the wish to get rid of some dangerous courtiers, rather than in 
a sense of equity. He assembled the senate, and, exhibiting 
to its astonished members the candelabrum of which one of 
the branches had been struck off at the assassination of 
Leo v., he demanded whether the laws of the empire and 
divine justice did not both call for the punishment of the men 
who had committed the double sacrilege of murdering their 
emperor and shedding his blood before the altar. Some 
senators, prepared for the scene, suggested that, in order 
to avert the vengeance of heaven, it was necessary to put the 
traitors to death. Theophilus immediately ordered the 
prefect of Constantinople to arrest every person concerned in 
Leo*s assassination and bring them to trial, whether they 
belonged to the party of the image-worshippers or of the 
Greek ecclesiastics. They were all convicted, and executed 
in the Hippodrome, vainly protesting against the injustice of 
their sentence, since their deed had been ratified and par- 
doned by the Emperor Michael II., and the reigning emperor 
confirmed that ratification by retaining the throne which he 
occupied in virtue of their act ^. 

Other examples of the emperor's severity were less liable to 
suspicion. A poor widow accused Petronas, the emperor's 
brother-in-law, an officer of talents and courage, of having, 

* Contiii.. in Script, post Tkeoph. 53. 
' JLeo Grammaticus, 449. 

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in violation of law, raised his house so high as to render 
hers almost uninhabitable from want of air and light. The 
laws concerning the disposition of private buildings in Con- 
stantinople were always regarded as an important object of 
imperial legislation. Theophilus ordered the grievance to be 
redressed ; but the complaint was subsequently reiterated, 
and the emperor discovered that his brother-in-law had dis- 
obeyed his decision. He now gave orders that the newly- 
built house should be levelled with the ground, and condemned 
Petronas to be scourged in the public highway 't Some time 
after this, Petronas was appointed to the high post of 
governor of Cherson, and during the reign of his nephew, 
Michael III., he defeated the Saracens in an important battle 
in Asia Minor, as will be hereafter related. This anecdote 
illustrates the state of society at the Byzantine court, by the 
contrast it presents between the servile feelings of the Romans 
and Greeks of Constantinople, and the independent spirit of 
the Franks and Germans of western Europe. In the Eastern 
Empire the shame of blows was nothing, and a bastinado 
inflicted on an emperors brother-in-law, who retained his 
oflicial rank, was not likely to be a very painful operation. 
The degradation of the punishment was effaced by the 
arbitrary nature of the power that inflicted it. The sense 
of justice inherent in mankind is always wounded by the 
infliction of arbitrary punishment; cruelty or caprice are 
supposed to dictate the sentence ; the public attention is 
averted from the crime, and pity is often created when the 
sufferer really deserves to be branded with infamy. 

On another occasion, as Theophilus rode through the 
streets, a man stepped forward, and, laying his hand on the 
horse the emperor was riding, exclaimed, * This horse is mine, 
O emperor I ' On investigating the circumstances, it appeared 
that the horse had really been taken by force from its pro- 
prietor by an officer of rank, who wished to present it to the 
emperor on account of its beauty. This act of violence wps. 
also punished, and the proprietor received two pounds' weight 

* The law of Zeno, giving the rules to be followed in constructing private 
houses at Constantinople, is contained in the Carpus Juris , Chilis j Cod. Juft, 
▼iii. 10. 12, De Atdificiis Privatis, Dirksen has published a memoir containing 
mudi information explanatory of this law, in the Transactions of the Berlin 
Academy for 1^44: it is entitled. Das Polizei-Gesetz d$s Kaisers Zeno iiber die 
bauliehe Ardage der Privathauser in ConstanlinofeJ, 

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of gold as an indemiiity for the loss he had sustained. The 

horse was worth about one hundred byzants ^ 

Theophilus was also indefatigable in examining the police 
details of the capital, and looking into the state of the 
markets. It is true that the abundance of provisions, and 
their price at Constantinople, was a matter of great import- 
ance to the Byzantine government, which, like the Roman, 
too often sacrificed the prosperity of the provinces to the 
tranquillity of the capital ; yet still the minute attention which 
Theophilus gave to performing the duties of a prefect, indicates 
that he was deficient in the grasp of intellect required for 
a clear perception of the duties of an emperor. 

The reign of Theophilus was an age of anecdotes and tales. 
It had many poetic aspirations, smothered in chronicles and 
legends of saints. Volumes of tales were then current, which 
would have given us a better insight into Byzantine manners 
than the folios of the historians, who have preserved an 
outline of a few of these stories. Theophilus seems to have 
been a kind of Byzantine Haroun Al Rashid. Unfortunately 
the Iconoclasts appear to have embodied more of this species 
of literature in their habits than the orthodox, who delighted 
in silly legends concerning saints rather than in imaginative 
pictures of the deeds of men ; and thus the mirror of truth 
has perished, while the fables that have been preserved are 
neglected from their unnatural stupidity ^. 

Theophilus was unmarried when he ascended the throne, 
and he found difficulty in choosing a wife^ At last he 
arranged with his stepmother, Euphrosyne, a project for 
enabling him to make a suitable selection, or at least to make 
his choice from a goodly collection. The empress-mother 
invited all the most beautiful and accomplished virgins at 
Constantinople to a f^te in her private apartments. When 
the gaiety of the assembled beauties had removed their first 
shyness, Theophilus entered the rooms, and walked forward 
with a golden apple in his hand. Struck by the grace and 

* Leo Gramm. 454. Seventy-two byzants were reckoned to the pound of gold. 

* I presume few persons have now either time or opportunity to read much of 
the Acta Sanctorum, fifty-three volumes of which were published at Antwerp from 
164.^ to 1793. This onlv goes as far as the 14th of October; yet much of the 
social hi^tory of the middle ages can be sought for in no other source. 

' It seems probable he was a widower, from the age of his daughters. Se€ 
p. 154, «o/f a. 

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beauty of Eikasia^ with whose features he must have been 
already acquamted, and of whose accomplishments he had 
often heard, he stopped to address her. The proud beauty 
felt herself already an empress ; but Theophilus commenced 
his conversation with the ungallant remark, 'Woman is the 
source of evil ;' to which the young lady too promptly replied 
* But woman is also the cause of much good.' The answer or 
the tone jarred on the captious mind of the emperor, and he 
walked on. His eye then fell on the modest features of the 
young Theodora, whose eyes were fixed on the ground. To 
her he gave the apple without risking a word. Eikasia, who 
for a moment had felt the throb of gratified ambition, could 
not recover from the shock. She retired into a monastery 
which she founded, and passed her life dividing her time 
between the practice of devotion and the cultivation of her 
mind. She composed some hymns, which continued long in 
use in the Greek church \ A short time after this, the 
Empress Euphrosyne retired into the monastery of Gastria, 
an agreeable retreat, selected also by Theoctista, the mother 
of Theodora, as her residence ^. 

Theodora herself is the heroine of another tale, illustrating 
the corruption of the officials about the court, and the inflexible 
love of justice of the emperor. The courtiers in the service 
of the imperial family had been in the habit of drawing 
large profits from evading the custom-duties to which other 
traders were liable, by engaging the empress to participate 
in their commercial adventures. The revenue of the state 
and the commerce of the honest merchant both suffered by 
this aristocratic mode of trading. Theophilus, who knew of 
the abuse, learned that the young empress had been per- 
suaded to lend her name to one of these trading speculations, 
and that a ship, laden with a valuable cargo in her name, 
was about to arrive at Constantinople. In order to put 
an end to these frauds by a striking example, he took care 
to be informed as this ship entered the port. When the 
vessel arrived, it displayed the imperial standard, and stood 

* Zonaras, ii. 141 ; Codinus, D# Orig, Const, 61, 204; Banduri, Imp, Oriintali, 
ii. 717. 

* Contin. 56. Gastria was certainly not selected as a place of exile, as modem 
writers have supposed, or Euphrosyne would, in all probability, have been sent 
back to the monastery in Prince's Island, which she had quitted to ascend the 

^ ^ Digitized by Google 



proudly towards the public warehouses with a fair wind. 

Theophilus, who had led the court to a spot overlooking the 

port, pretending to be struck by the gallant appearance of the 

vessel, demanded with what military stores she was laden, 

and whence she came. The truth was soon elicited, and when 

he obtained a full confession of the nature of the cargo, he 

ordered it to be landed and publicly burned ; for he said, it was 

never heard that a Roman emperor or empress turned trader'. 

The principles of toleration which guided the imperial 
administration during the preceding reigns were not entirely 
laid aside by Theophilus, and though his religious bigotry 
was strong, he preferred punishing the image-worshippers 
for disobedience to the civil laws to persecuting them for 
their ecclesiastical opinions. The emperor's own prejudices 
in favour of the divine right of kings were as intolerant as 
his aversion to image-worship, so that he really acted as 
much on political as religious grounds. His father had not 
removed pictures from the walls of churches when they were 
placed in elevated situations; and had Theophilus followed 
his example, Iconoclasts and image-worshippers might at 
last have accepted the compromise, and dwelt peaceably 
together in the Eastern church. The monks, too, had been 
wisely allowed considerable latitude within the walls of their 
monasteries, though they were forbidden to preach publicly 
to the people in favour of image-worship. Theophilus was 
inclined to imitate the policy of Leo the Isaurian, but he 
could not venture to dissolve the refractory monasteries and 
imprison the monks. The government of the earlier Icono- 
clasts reposed on an army organized by themselves, and ready- 
to enforce all their orders; but in the time of Theophilus, 
the army neither possessed the same power over society, nor 
was it equally devoted to the emperor. 

In the year 832, an edict was issued prohibiting every 
display of picture-worship, and commanding that the word 
holy, usually placed in letters of gold before the name of 
a saint, should be erased. This edict was at times carried 
into execution in an arbitrary and oppressive manner, and 
caused discontent and opposition 2. A celebrated painter of 

* Contin. 55 ; Zonaras. ii. 143. The reference to Syria by Zonaras is, as 
Sdilosser observes, a mistake originating in the If obfiax of the elder historian. 

* Contin. ^i ; Cedrenus, 514. 

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A.D 829-343] 

ecclesiastical subjects, named Lazaros, who acquired great 
fame during the reign of Michael III., was imprisoned and 
scourged, but subsequently released from confinement at the 
intercession of Theodora ^ Two monks, Theophanes the 
Singer and Theodore Graptos, were much more cruelly 
treated, for, in addition to other tortures, some verses were 
branded on the forehead of Theodore, who from that circum- 
stance received his surname of Graptos ^. 

Some time after the publication of this edict against 
image-worship, John the Grammarian was elected Patriarch. 
Though a decided opponent of image-worship, he was a 
man of a larger intellect and more tolerant disposition than 
his imperial pupil, over whose mind, however, he fortunately 
retained considerable influence^. Still, when the emperor 
found his edict unavailing, he compelled the Patriarch to 
assemble a synod, which was induced to excommunicate all 
image-worshippers. As the Patriarch was averse to these 
violent proceedings, it can hardly be supposed that they 
produced much effect within the pale of the church; but 
they certainly tended to inflame the zeal of those marked 
out for persecution, and strengthened the minds of the orthodox 
to perform what they considered to be their duty, arming 
them with faith to resist the civil power. The spirit of 
religious strife was awakened, and the emperor was so impru- 
dent as to engage personally in controversies with monks 
and priests. These discussions ruffled his temper and increased 
his severity, by exposing his lofty pretensions, his dignity 
and talents, to be slighted by men who gloried in displaying 
their contempt for all earthly power. Theophilus sought 

* Lazaros painted a picture of St. John the Baptist while he was suflfering from 
the stripes he received, which was reported to have performed many miraculous 

* Schlosser. Geschich/e der bild. Kaiser^ 533. 

' The chronology of John's patriarchate presents some difficulties. Schlosser 
places his election in 833 ; s9e his note, p. 486. Pagi and Banduri in 833 ; Imp, 
Oriett. ii. 908. The length of his patriarchate is given differently in the various 
lists we possess. Some fix it at nine years. Zonaras (ii. 153) says he was only 
six j^ears Patriarch. Symeon Mag. (421) says he was elected the eighth year of 
Theophilus. These two writers consequently place his election in 837. The 
Contmuator {Script, post Theoph, 75) says he was elected on Sunday. 21st April. 
Now it appears from VArt de Verifier In Dates that Easter Sunday fell on the 
list of April in 832 and 838, and not in any intermediate year. The embassy of 
John to Bagdad preceded his election. It is placed by Symeon Mag (419) "i the 
fifth year of Theophilus. Weil {Oesehich^e der Chalifen, ii. 297) considers that it 
occuired at the end of the year 833. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.III. §a. 

revenge for his injured vanity. The monks who persisted 
in publicly displaying images and pictures were driven from 
their monasteries ; and many members of the clergy, dis- 
tinguished for learning and beloved for virtue, were imprisoned 
and scourged. Yet, even during the height of his resentment, 
the emperor winked at the superstition of those who kept 
their opinions private, tolerated the prejudices of the Empress 
Theodora, and at her request released Methodios, the future 
Patriarch of Constantinople, from prison ^. 

The wealth of the Byzantine empire was at this period 
very great, and its industry in the most flourishing condition. 
Theophilus, though engaged in expensive and disastrous wars, 
found the imperial revenues so much increased by the aug- 
mented commerce of his subjects that he was able to indulge 
an inordinate passion for pomp and display. His love of 
art was gratified by the fantastic employment of rich materials 
in luxurious ornament, rather than by durable works of useful 
grandeur. His architectural taste alone took a direction at 
times advantageous to the public. The walls of Constantinople 
towards the sea were strengthened, and their height increased. 
He founded a hospital, which remained one of the most 
useful institutions of the city to the latest days of Byzantine 
history 2 ; but, at the same time, he gratified his love of 
display in architecture by constructing palaces, at an enormous 
expense, in no very durable manner. One of these, built 
in imitation of the great palace of the caliphs at Bagdad, 
was erected at Bryas, on the Asiatic shore ^. The varied 
form, the peculiar arches, the coloured decorations, the 
mathematical tracery, and the rich gilding, had induced 
John the Grammarian, when he visited the Caliph Motassem 
as ambassador from Theophilus, to bring back drawings and 

* Gibbon {Decline and Fall, vi. 92) has exaggerated the cruelty of the punish- 
ments inflicted by Theophilus. S<irosser (524) remarks that he has found no 
authority to authorize the reproaches of excessive tyranny. Even the Jesuit 
Maimbourg {Hitoire de V Her hie des Iconoclastes, ii. 233) mentions the imprison- 
ment of Methodios with a dead robber, and the branding verses on the foreheads 
of Theodore and Theophanes (if the latter suffered this punishment), as the most 
inhuman acts of Theophilus. Contin. 65. 

The story that Theodora persuaded her husband to believe that some images 
of saints in her possession were only dolls for her children's amusement, is a 
popular anecdote more deserving of a place in the dull Legends of the Saints 
than in the Byzantine court anecdotes. 

'^ Codinus, De Orig. Const, 28; Banduri, Imp. Orient, ii. 648. 

3 Contin. 61 ; Ducange, Const. Chrin. lib. iv. 177. 

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A.D. 829-843.] 

plans of this building, which was totally different from the 
Byzantine style. Other buildings constructed by Theophilus 
are described by historians in a way that indicates they must 
have been far superior in magnificence to the works of 
preceding or following emperors ^. 

Theophilus was also an enthusiastic admirer of music, and 
as church-music was in his time one of the principal amuse- 
ments of persons of taste, musical science was employed to 
add to the grandeur and solemnity of ecclesiastical ceremonies. 
In works of art, the emperor's taste appears not to have been 
very pure. A puerile vanity induced him to lavish enormous 
sums in fabricating goi^eous toys of jewellery. In these 
ornaments, singular mechanical contrivances were combined 
with rich figures to astonish the spectator. A golden plane- 
tree, covered with innumerable artificial birds, that warbled 
and fluttered their wings on its branches, vultures that 
screamed, and lions that roared, stood at the entrance of the 
hall of state. Invisible organs, that filled the ceilings of the 
apartments with soft melody, were among the strange things 
that Theophilus placed in the great palace of Constantinople. 
They doubtless formed the theme of many Byzantine tales, 
of which we still see a reflected image in the Arabian Nights ^. 

Two laws of Theophilus deserve especial notice : one 
exhibits him in the character of a capricious tyrant ; the other 
reveals the extent to which elements adverse to Roman and 
Greek nationality pervaded Byzantine society. The first of 
these edicts ordered all the Romans — that is, all the subjects 
of the empire — to wear their hair cropped short, under the 
pain of the bastinado, Theophilus pretended that he wished 
to restore old Roman fashions, but the world believed that 
the flowing locks of others rendered him ashamed of his own 
bald head. The other law declared that the marriage of 
Persians and Romans did in no way derogate from the rights 
of those who were citizens of the empire ; and it shows that a 
very great emigration of Persian Christians from the dominions 

^ Symeon Mag. (450) tells us that Leo, a great mathematician, invented a kind 
of telegraph, with a dial, in the palace of Theophilus in Constantinople, which 
report^ the news transmitted from the Cilician frontier by fire- signals to the 

* Contin. 107; Leo Gramm. 450; Const. Manasses, 107; Glycas, 392; Ce- 
drenns, Zonaras, and the later writers. Many of these works were executed under 
the direction of John Hylilas and Leo the Mathematician. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.III. §2. 

of the caliphs must have taken place, or such a law would 
not have become necessary. Theophobos, one of the most 
distinguished leaders of the Persians, who claimed descent from 
the Sassanides, married Helena, the emperor's sister *. 

The wide extended frontiers of the empire required Theo- 
philus to maintain relations with the sovereigns of a large 
portion of Asia and Europe. To secure allies against his 
great enemy, the Caliph of Bagdad, he renewed the ancient 
alliance of the emperors of Constantinople with the sovereign 
of the Khazars ; but this people was now too much occupied 
in defending its own territories against a new race of intruders, 
called Patzinaks, to renew their invasions of the northern 
provinces of the Mohammedan empire. The progress of the 
Patzinaks alarmed Theophilus for the security of the Byzan- 
tine commerce with the northern nations, from which the 
imperial treasury drew immense duties; and he sent his 
brother-in-law Petronas (whom, as we have mentioned, he 
had condemned to be scourged) to- Cherson, which was then 
a free city like Venice, with orders to construct a fortress for 
the protection of a commercial settlement on the banks of the 
Don. This colony, called Sarkel, was the principal dep6t of 
the Byzantine trade with the nations to the north of the Black 
Sea^. A friendly intercourse was kept up with Louis le 
D^bonnaire and his son, Lothaire. The Venetians were 
invited to assist in the naval war for the defence of Sicily 
and southern Italy against the Saracens of Africa ^. An 
embassy was sent to Abderrahman II., the caliph of Spain, to 
secure the commerce of the Greeks in the West from any 
interruption, and to excite the Ommiad caliph to hostilities 
against the Abassides of Bagdad *. 

When Theophilus ascended the throne, the Byzantine and 
Saracen empires enjoyed peace ; but they were soon involved 
in a fierce contest, whidi bears some resemblance to the 

* Contin. 67-70. 

* Cherson is now regaining its ancient celebrity and importance as Sebastopol. 
It was then governed by a president and senate, elected by the citizens, and no 
governor was sent from Constantinople. Theophilus succeeded in reducing it 
to complete dependence. Contin. 76; Constant. Porph)rr. Be Adm, Imp, ii. 
c 42. Sarkel is supposed to have been at Bielaveja, near Tcherkmsk, the capital 
of the Don Cossacks. Lehrberg, Untersuchungen zttr Erlattienmg der alUm 
Geschichte Russlands, Petersburg. i«i'^; Cedrenus, 415. 

' Dandolu. Chron. viii. 4. 6, m Muratori, torn. i. 

* Murphy's History of the Mohammsdan Empire in Spain, 93 ; A, D. 839. 

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AJ>. 829-842.] 

mortal combat between the Roman and Persian empires in 
the time of Heraclius. Almamun, who ruled the caliphate 
from 813 to 833, was a magnificent and liberal sovereign, 
distinguished for his love of science and literature, and eager 
to surpass the Greeks in knowledge and the Romans in arms. 
Though not himself a soldier, his armies were commanded by 
several celebrated generals. The want of a moral check on 
the highest officials of arbitrary governments usually prevents 
the existence of a sense of duty in political relations, and 
hence rebellions and civil wars become prevalent. In the 
reign of Almamun, the disturbances in Persia reduced the 
j>opulation, whether fire-worshippers or Christians, to despair ; 
and a great number, unable to live in their native country, 
escaped into the Byzantine empire, and established themselves 
at Sinope. This immigration seems to have consisted chiefly 
of Christians, who feared equally the government of Almamun 
and of the rebel Babek, who, though preaching the equality 
of all mankind, was accused of allowing every license to his 
own followers. The Persian troops at Sinope were placed 
under the command of Theophobos, and their number was 
increased by an addition of seven thousand men who joined 
them when Afshin, the general of the Caliph Motassem, 
defeated Babek, and extinguished the civil war in Persia ^. 

The protection granted by Theophilus to refugees from the 
caliph s dominions, induced Almamun to invade the empire in 
the year 831 ; and the Saracen general, Abu Chazar, com- 
pletely defeated the Byzantine army, commanded by Theo- 
philus in person. The emperor repaired this disgrace in the 
following year by gaining a victory over the Saracens in 
Charsiana, which he celebrated with great pomp and vainglory 
in the hippodrome of Constantinople ^. Almamun revenged 
the defeat of his generals by putting himself at the head of his 
army, ravaging Cappadocia, and capturing Heracleia. 

* The Babek who is said by the Byzantine historians to have fled into the 
empire with seven thousand followers, was certainly a different person from the 
celebrated leader of the rebellion. The arrival of this refugee is placed before 
the commencement of the war between Theophilus and Almamun, a.d. 831. The 

Cat rebel Babek sustained an inoportant oefeat in 833, when many of his fol- 
rers fled into Armenia and the Byzantine provinces, according to the Arabian 
historians; but he still continued the war in Adzerbijan. Compare Contin. 70; 
Symeon Mag. 415; Cedrenus, ii. 533; and Weil, GetchichU der Chalifen, ii. 339. 

* Constant. Porphyr. De Caeremoniis Aulas Byzantinae, i. 503, edit. Bonn. Reiske 
considers that this account of the triumph of Theophilus refers to his return after 
the destruction of Zapetra ; ii. 590. 


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[ jj. 

The armies of the Byzantine empire consisted in great part 
of foreign mercenaries. Some secondary causes, connected 
with the development of society, which have escaped the 
notice of historians, operated to render the recruitment of 
armies more than usually difficult among the civilized portions 
of mankind, and caused all the powerful sovereigns of the age 
to exclude their native subjects as much as possible from the 
use of arms. In the Saracen empire this feeling led to the 
transference of all military power into the hands of Turkish 
mercenaries ; and in the Frank empire it led to the exposure 
of the country, without defence, to the incursions of the 
Normans. It is true that jealousy of the Arab aristocracy in 
one case, and fear of the hostile disposition of the Romanized 
population in the other, had considerable influence on the 
conduct of the caliphs and of the Western emperors. The 
Byzantine empire, though under the influence of similar 
tendencies, was saved from a similar fate by a higher d^jree 
of political civilization. The distrust of Theophilus for his 
generals was shown by the severity with which he treated 
them. Manuel, one of the best officers of the empire, 
disgusted at his suspicions, fled to the Saracens, and served 
with distinction in their armies against the rebels of Chor- 
asan^. Alexios Mousel, an Armenian, who received the 
favourite daughter of Theophilus in marriage, with the rank of 
Caesar, was degraded and scourged in consequence of his 
father-in-law's suspicions ^. 

Immediately after the death of Almamun, the emperor 
sent John the Grammarian on an embassy to Motassem, who 
succeeded his brother as caliph. The object of this embassy 
was to conclude a lasting peace, and at all events to persuade 
Manuel, whose fame in the war of Chorasan had reached the 
ears of Theophilus, to return home. With the caliph the 

* See the romantic account of the exploits of Manuel, which, as they set chro- 
nology at defiance, cannot be receivj^ as historical. Contin. 74; Cedrenus, 

ii. 527- 

* It would seem that Theophilus had been married before his father's death. 
Maria, the wife of Alexios, was the youngest of five daughters, and her marriage, 
even according to Symeon Mag., who says she was the daughter of Theodora, 
took place in the third year of the reign of Theophilus (417, 418). We must 
suppose that both the wives of Theophilus were named Theodora, and that he 
was a widower at his father's death, after which he married the second. But 
even then difficulties will be found, and the chronology of this period is singularly 
confused. Thekla, the eldest daughter of Theophilus, received the imperial title 
from her father before the birth of Michael III. 

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AJ). 829-843.] 

negotiations appear not to have been as successful as the 
emperor expected, but with Manuel they succeeded perfectly. 
The magnificence of John on this occasion gave rise to many 
wonderful tales, and the Greeks were long amused by the 
accounts of the marvellous wealth displayed by the priestly 

Not very long after this embassy, Theophilus, availing 
himself of the troubles occasioned in the caliph's dominions 
by the civil wars arising out of the heretical opinions concern- 
ing the human composition of the Koran, which had been 
favoured by Almamun, invaded the caliph's dominions. The 
Byzantine troops ravaged the country to the south of 
Melitene, anciently called Commagene, defeated the Saracens 
with great loss, captured Zapetra, and penetrated as far as 
Samosata, which Theophilus also took and destroyed. Zape- 
tra, or Sosopetra, lay about two days' journey to the west of 
the road from Melitene to Samosata^. The Greeks pretended 
that it was the birthplace of Motassem, and that the caliph 
sent an embassy to the emperor entreating him to spare the 
town, which he offered to ransom at any price; but Theophilus 
dismissed the ambassadors, and razed Zapetra to the ground^. 
This campaign seems to have been remarkable for the cruelty 
with which the Mohammedans were treated, and the wanton 
ravages committed by the Persian emigrants in the Byzantine 
service. The Saracens repeated one of the tales in connection 
with this expedition which was current among their country- 
men, and applied, as occasion served, from the banks of the 
Guadalquivir to those of the Indus. In Spain it was told of 
Al Hakem, in Asia of Motassem. A female prisoner, when 
insulted by a Christian soldier, was reported to have exclaimed 
in her agony, 'Oh, shame on Motassem ^ ! ' The circumstance 
was repeated to the caliph, who learned at the same time that 
the unfortunate woman was of the tribe of Hashem, and 
consequently, according to the clannish feelings of the 
Arabs, a member of his own family. Motassem swore by 

* Abulfeda, cited by Weil, ii 309. note 2. 

* Contin. 77. Genesios (^31) says it was the birthplace of Motassem*s mother. 
Syineon Mag. (421) places the destruction of Zapetra in the seventh year of 

* Gibbon, vl 413, edit. Smith. The story, as told of Motassem, is given by 
Price, Mohammedan History, ii. 147; as told of Al Hakem, by Murphy, History 
of the Mohammedan Empire in Spainf 90. 


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[ Sa. 

the Prophet he would do everything in his power to revenge 


In the mean time Theophilus, proud of his easy victories, 
returned to Constantinople, and instead of strengthening his 
frontier, and placing strong garrisons near the mountain-passes, 
brought his best troops to Constantinople to attend on his 
own person. As he entered the hippodrome in a chariot 
drawn by four white horses, wearing the colours of the blue 
faction, his happy return was hailed by the people with loud 
shouts. His welcome was more like that of a successful 
charioteer than of a victorious general. 

The Persian mercenaries, whose number had now increased 
to thirty thousand, were placed in winter-quarters at Sinope 
and Amastris, where they began to display a seditious spirit ; 
for Theophilus could neither trust his generals nor acquire the 
confidence of his soldiers. These mercenaries at last broke 
out into rebellion, and resolved to form a Persian kingdom 
in Pont us. They proclaimed their general Theophob9s king ; 
but that officer had no ambition to insure the ruin of his 
brother-in-law's empire by grasping a doubtful sceptre ; and 
he sent assurances to Theophilus that he would remain faithful 
to his allegiance, and do everything in his power to put an 
end to the rebellion. Without much difficulty, therefore, 
this army of Persians was gradually dispersed through the 
different themes, but tranquillity was obtained by sacrificing 
the efficiency of one of the best armies in the empire. 

Motassem, having also re-established tranquillity in the 
interior of his dominions, turned his whole attention to the 
war with the Byzantine empire. A well-appointed army of 
veterans, composed of the troops who had suppressed the 
rebellion of Babek, was assembled on the frontiers of Cilicia, 
and the caliph placed himself at the head of the army, on the 
banks of the Cydnus, in the year 838 ^. A second army of 
thirty thousand men, under Afshin, advanced into the empire 
at a considerable distance to the north-east of the grand army, 
under the immediate orders of the caliph. Afshin had sup- 

* Contin. 78; Symeon Mag. 423. This last places the defeat of Theophilus 
and the death of Manuel m the ninth year of Theophilus, and the taking of 
Amorium in the tenth. The reign of Theophilus commenced in October 829, 
They evidently occurred in one campaign, and the Arabian historians give the 
23rd September 838 as the date of the capture of Amonum. Weil, ii. 315. 

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AJ>. 819-843.] 

pressed the rebellion of Babek after it had lasted twenty 
years, and was considered the ablest general of the Saracens. 
On hearing that the army of Afshin had invaded Lykandos, 
Theophilus intrusted the defences of the Cilician passes, by 
which the caliph proposed to advance, to Actios, the general 
of the Anatolic theme, and hastened to stop the progress of 
Afshin, whose army, strengthened by a strong body of Arme- 
nians under Sembat the native governor of the country, and 
by ten thousand Turkish mercenaries, who were then con- 
sidered the best troops in Asia, was overrunning Cappadocia. 
Theophilus, apprehensive that this army might turn his flank, 
and alarmed lest the Armenians and Persians, of which it was 
part composed, might seduce those of the same nations in his 
service, was anxious to hasten an engagement. The battle 
was fought at Dasymon, where the Byzantine army, com- 
manded by Theophobos and Manuel, under the immediate 
orders of Theophilus, attacked the Saracens. The field was 
fiercely contested, and for some time it seemed as if victory 
would favour the Christians ; but the admirable discipline of 
the Turkish archers decided the fate of the day. In vain the 
emperor exposed his person with the greatest valour to recover 
.the advantage he had lost ; Manuel was compelled to make 
the most desperate efforts to save him, and induce him to 
retreat. The greater part of the Byzantine troops fled from 
the field, and the Persian mercenaries alone remained to 
guard the emperor^s person. During the night, however, 
Theophilus was informed that the foreigners were negotiating 
with the Saracens to deliver him up a prisoner, and he was 
compelled to mount his horse, and ride almost unattended to 
Chiliokomon, where a portion of the native troops of the 
empire had rallied \ From thence he retired to Dorylaeum, 
where he endeavoured to assemble an army to defend Amo- 
rium. Manuel died of the wounds he received in saving the 

While Theophilus was marching to his defeat, the advanced 
guard of the caliph's army, under Ashnas'-^ and Wassif, 
threaded the Cilician passes in the direction of Tyana ; and 
Actios, unable to resist their advance, allowed the main body 

* Strabo, xii. p. 561. North of Amasia. the native place of the geographer. 
» Ashnas was a Turk. Motassem had collected at this time about 70,000 Turks 
in his service. Weil, ii. 504. 

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of the Saracens to penetrate into the central plains of Asia 
Minor without opposition. Abandoning the whole of the 
Anatolic theme to the invaders, he concentrated his forces 
under the walls of Amorium. After ravaging Lycaonia and 
Pisidia, Motassem marched to besiege Amorium. The capture 
of this city, as the birthplace of the Amorian dynasty, had 
been announced by the caliph to be the object of the cam- 
paign; and it was said that 130,000 men had marched out 
of Tarsus with AMORIUM painted on their shields. Motassem 
expected to carry the place by assault; and the defeat of 
Theophilus by his lieutenants inspired him with the hope 
of carrying his arms to the shores of the Bosphorus, and 
plundering the Asiatic suburb of Constantinople. But all his 
attempts to storm Amorium, though repeated with fresh 
troops on three successive days, were defeated by Actios, who 
had thrown himself into the city with the best soldiers in his 
army, and the caliph found himself obliged to commence 
a regular siege. Theophilus now sued for peace. The bishop 
of Amorium and the leading citizens offered to capitulate, for 
the numerous army within the walls soon exhausted the 
provisions. But Motassem declared that he would neither 
conclude a peace nor grant terms of capitulation ; vengeance 
was what he sought, not victory. Amorium was valiantly 
defended for fifty-five days, but treachery at length enabled 
the caliph to gratify his passion, just as he was preparing to 
try the fortune of a fourth general assault. The traitor who 
sold his post and admitted the Saracens into the city was 
named Voiditzes. In this case both the Christian and Moham- 
medan accounts agree in ascribing the success of the be- 
siegers to treason in the Christian ranks, and the defence 
appears to have been conducted by Actios both with skill 
and valour ^ The cruelty of Motassem far exceeded that of 
Theophilus. Thirty thousand persons were massacred, and the 
inhabitants who were spared were sold as slaves. The city of 
Amorium was burned to the ground, and the walls destroyed. 
The ambassadors sent by Theophilus to b^ for peace had 
been detained by the caliph, to witness his conquest. They 
were now sent back with this answer, * Tell your master that 
I have at last discharged the debt contracted at Zapetra.' 

» Contin. 81. 

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AJ>. 829-843.] 

Motassem, however, perceived that a considerable change 
had taken place in the empire since the days in which the 
Saracens had besieged Constantinople. He did not consider 
it prudent to approach the shores of the Bosphorus, but 
returned to his own dominions, carrying with him Actios and 
forty officers of rank captured in Amorium. For seven years 
these men were vainly urged to embrace the Mohammedan 
faith ; at last they were put to death by Vathek, the son of 
Motassem, and they are regarded as martyrs by the orthodox 
church '. Theophilus is said to have offered the Caliph 
Motassem the sum of 2400 lb. of gold to purchase peace and 
the deliverance of all the Christians who had been taken 
prisoner during the war ; but the caliph demanded in addition 
that a Persian refugee named Naser, and Manuel, of whose 
death he appears not to have been assured, should also be 
given up. Theophilus refused to disgrace himself by delivering 
up Naser, and the treaty was broken off. Naser was shortly 
after killed in an engagement on the frontier. 

The war was prosecuted for some years in a languid manner, 
and success rather inclined to the Byzantine arms. The port 
of Antioch, on the Orontes, was taken and plundered by 
a Greek fleet ; the province of Melitene was ravaged as far 
as Marash; Abou Said, who had defeated and slain Naser, 
was in turn himself defeated and taken prisoner. At last 
a truce seems to have been concluded, but no exchange of 
prisoners took place ^. 

Theophilus never recovered from the wound his pride 
received at Amorium. The frequent defeats he sustained in 
those battles where he was personally engaged, contrasted 
with the success of his generals, rankled in his. melancholy 
disposition. His sensitive temperament and the fatigues of 
his campaigns undermined his health. To divert his mind, 
he indulged his passion for building ; and so great were the 
resources of the Byzantine treasury, that even at this period 
of misfortune he could lavish enormous sums in unprofitable 
magnificence. It would have been well, both for him and for 
the Christian world, had he employed some of this wealth at 
an earlier period in fortifying the frontier and diminishing the 

* Their martyrdom is celebrated on the 6th March. It occurred in 845. Meno- 

Weil. u. 343. 

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logium Grtucorum^ iii. 7. 
• No exchange of prisoners took place imtil September 845. Weil, ii. 343, 


[ §a. 

burden of the land-tax. He now erected a new chapel called 

Triconchos, a circus for public races, a staircase called Sig^ma, 

a whispering gallery called the Mystery, and a magnificent 

fountain called Phiala^ But the emperor's health continued 

to decline, and he perceived that his end was not very 


Theophilus prepared for death with courage, but with that 

suspicion which disgraced his character. A council of regency 

was named to assist Theodora. His habitual distrust induced 

him to fear lest Theophobos might seize the throne by means 

of the army, or establish an independent kingdom in the 

Armeniac theme by means of the Persian mercenaries. The 

conspiracy on the night after the defeat at Dasymon had 

augmented the jealousy with which the emperor regarded his 

brother-in-law ever after the rebellion of the Persian troops at 

Sinope and Amastris. He now resolved to secure his son's 

throne at the expense of his own conscience, and ordered 

Theophobos to be beheaded. Recollecting the fortune of his 

father, and the fate of Leo the Armenian, he commanded the 

head of his brother-in-law to be brought to his bedside. The 

agitation of the emperor's mind, after issuing this order, 

greatly increased his malady; and when the lifeless head of 

his former friend was placed before him, he gazed long and 

steadily at its features, his mind doubtless wandering over the 

memory of many a battle-field in which they had fought 

together. At last he slowly exclaimed, * Thou art no longer 

Theophobos, and I am no more Theophilus:' then, turning 

away his head, he sank on his pillow, and never again opened 

his lips. 

* Contin. 63, 86 ; Symeon Mag 424. An account of the buildings of Theo- 
philus will be found in Schnaase's Geschichfe der hildenden Kunste im Miiielalier. 
Altchristliche und Mohammedaniscke Kunsi, i. 151 (vol. iii. of the complete work). 

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Aj>. 842-867.] 

Sect. \\\.— Michael III. {the Drunkard), A.D. 842-867. 

Regency of Theodora. — Moral and religious reaction. — Restoration of image- 
worship. — Rebellion of the Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus. — Saracen war. 
— Persecution of the Paulicians. — Personal conduct of Michael III. — Wealth 
in the treasury. — Bardas. — Ignatios and Photius. — Origin of papal authority 
in the church. — General council in 861. — Bulgarian war. — Saracen War. — 
Victory of Petronas. — Russians attack Constantinople.— State of the court. 
— Assassinations. — Origin of the tale of Belisarius. — Assassination of Michael 
in. by Basil the Macedonian. 

Michael the son of Theophilus was between three and four 
years old when his father died. His mother Theodora, having 
been crowned empress, was regent in her own right. The will 
of her husband had joined with her, as a council of administra- 
tion, Theoktistos, the ablest statesman in the empire ; Manuel, 
the uncle of the empress ; and Bardas, her brother ^. Thekla, 
an elder sister of Michael, had also received the title of 
Empress before her father's death. 

The great struggle between the Iconoclasts and the image- 
worshippers was terminated during the regency of Theodora, 
and she is consequently regarded by the orthodox as a pattern 
of excellence, though she countenanced the vices of her son 
by being present at his most disgraceful scenes of debauchery. 
The most remarkable circumstance, at the termination of this 
long religious contest, is the immorality which invaded all 
ranks of society. The strict morality and religious sincerity 
which, during the government of the early Iconoclasts, had 
raised the empire from the vei^e of social dissolution to 
dignity and strength, had subsequently been supplanted by 
a d^^ee of cant and hypocrisy that became at last intolerable. 
The sincerity of both the ecclesiastical parties, in their early 
contests, obtained for them the respect of the people; but 
when the political question concerning the subjection of the 
ecclesiastical to the civil power became the principal object of 
dispute, official tyranny and priestly ambition only used a 
hypocritical veil of religious phrases for the purpose of con- 
cealing their interested ends from popular scrutiny. As usual, 

* Theoktistos was a eunuch, and held the office of logothetes of the dromos, — 
a kind of postmaster-general. He was made kanicleios, or keeper of the purple 
ink, with which the emperor signed his name to official documents. The post- 
master was a most important officer in the Saracen as well as in the Byzantine> 
empire at this time. 


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the people saw much farther than their rulers supposed, and 
the consequence was that, both parties being suspected of 
hypocrisy, the influence of true religion was weakened and 
the most sacred ties of society rent asunder. The Byzantine 
clergy showed themselves ready on all occasions to flatter the 
vices of the civil government : the monks were eager for 
popular distinction, and acted the part of demagogues ; while 
servile prelates and seditious monks were both equally indif- 
ferent to alleviating the people's burdens. 

Every rank of society at last proclaimed that it was weary 
of religious discussion and domestic strife. Indifference to 
the ecclesiastical questions so long predominant, produced 
indifference to religion itself, and the power of conscience 
became dormant ; enjoyment was soon considered the object 
of life; and vice, under the name of pleasure, became the 
fashion of the day. In this state of society, of which the 
germs were visible in the reign of Theophilus, superstition was 
sure to be more powerful than religion. It was easier to pay 
adoration to a picture, to reverence a relic, or to observe 
a ceremony, than to regulate one's conduct in life by the 
principles of morality and the doctrines of religion. Pictures, 
images, relics and ceremonies became consequently the great 
objects of veneration. The Greek population of the empire 
had identifled its national feelings with traditional usages 
rather than with Christian doctrines, and its opposition to the 
Asiatic puritanism of the Isaurian, Armenian, and Amorian 
emperors, ingrafted the reverence for relics, the adoration of 
pictures, and the worship of saints, into the religious fabric of 
the Eastern church, as essentials of Christian worship. What- 
ever the church has gained in this way, in the amount of 
popular devotion, seems to have been lost to popular morality. 

The senate possessed considerable influence in administra- 
tive business. It was called upon to ratify the will of Theo- 
philus, and a majority of its members were gained over to the 
party of the empress, who was known to favour image-worship\ 
The people of Constantinople had always been of this party; 
and the Iconoclasts of the higher ranks, tired of the persecu- 
tions which had been the result of the ecclesiastical quarrel, 
desired peace and toleration more than victory. The Patriarch, 

* Contin. 85. 

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John the Grammarian, and some of the highest dignitaries in 

the church, were, nevertheless, conscientiously opposed to a 

species of devotion which they thought too closely resembled 

idolatry, and from them no public compliance could be ex-» 

pected. Manuel, however, the only member of the regency 

who had been a fervent Iconoclast, suddenly abandoned the 

defence of his opinions ; and his change was so unexpected 

that it was reported he had been converted by a miracle. A 

sudden illness brought him to the point of death, when the 

prayers and the images of the monks of Studion as suddenly 

restored him to health. Such was the belief of the people 

of Constantinople, and it must have been a belief extremely 

profitable to the monks. 

It .was necessary to hold a general council in order to effect 
the restoration of image-worship ; but to do this as long as 
John the Grammarian remained Patriarch was evidently im- 
possible. The regency, however, ordered him to convoke a 
synod, and invite to it all the bishops and abbots sequestered 
as image-worshippers, or else to resign the patriarchate. John 
refused both commands, and a disturbance occurred, in which 
he was wounded by the imperial guards. The court party 
spread a report that he had wounded himself in an attempt to 
commit suicide — the greatest crime a Christian could commit. 
The great mechanical knowledge of John, and his studies in 
natural philosophy, were already considered by the ignorant 
as criminal in an ecclesiastic ; so that the calumnious accusa- 
tion, like that already circulated of his magical powers, found 
ready credence among the orthodox Greeks. The court seized 
the opportunity of deposing him. He was first exiled to a 
monastery, and subsequently, on an accusation that he had 
picked out the eyes in a picture of a saint, he was scourged, 
and his own ty^ were put out. His mental superiority was 
perhaps as much the cause of his persecution as his religious 

Methodios, who had been released from imprisonment by 
Theophilus at the intercession of Theodora, was named Patri- 
arch, and a council of the church was held at Constantinople 
in 842, to which all the exiled bishops, abbots, and monks who 
had distinguished themselves as confessors in the cause of 
ims^e-worship were admitted. Those bishops who remained 
firm to their Iconoclastic opinions were expelled from their 

M % 


by Google 


[Bk.I.Ch.III. §3, 

sees, and replaced by the most eminent confessors. The 
practices and doctrines of the Iconoclasts were formally ana- 
thematized, and banished for ever from the orthodox church. 
A crowd of monks descended from the secluded monasteries 
of Olympus, Ida, and Athos\ to revive the enthusiasm of the 
people in favour of images, pictures, and relics ; and the last 
remains of traditional idolatry were carefully interwoven with 
the established religion in the form of the legendary history 
of the saints^. 

A singular scene was enacted in this synod by the Empress 
Theodora. She presented herself to the assembled clergy, 
and asked for an act declaring that the church pardoned all 
the sins of her deceased husband, with a certificate that divine 
grace had effaced the record of his persecutions. When she 
saw dissatisfaction visible in the looks of a majority of the 
members, she threatened, with frank simplicity, that if they 
would not do her that favour, she would not employ her in- 
fluence as empress and regent to give them the victory over 
the Iconoclasts, but would leave the affairs of the church in 
their actual situation. The Patriarch Methodios answered, 
that the church was bound to employ its influence in relieving 
the souls of orthodox princes from the pains of hell, but, un- 
fortunately, the prayers of the church'had no power to obtain 
forgiveness from God for those who died without the pale of 
orthodoxy. The church was only intrusted with the keys of 
heaven to open and shut the gates of salvation to the living — 
the dead were beyond its help. Theodora, however, deter- 

* [It does not seem strictly accurate to speak of monasteries as existing on 
Athos at this time. In the passage of Genesius here referred to, only monks and 
not monasteries are mentioned. And though several of the Athos monasteries 
at the present day claim an earlier date for their foundation, yet the earliest con- 
temporary evidence on the subject is of the year a.i>. 885, when the Emperor 
Basil the Macedonian issued a rescript, forbidding the inhabitants of the neigh- 
bouring country to disturb the * holy hermits.' At that time these monks were 
dependent on a monastery at Hierissus (Erisso), a restriction on their freedom 
which was removed by the next emperor, Leo the PhilosoiJier ; and from the fact 
that in his rescript they are still termed hermits (oi t<^v h^ynKhv fiiw kXSfMPot"^, 
we may conclude that no monastery had yet been founded. Very shortly afterwards, 
however, and perhaps in consequence of the removal of this restriction, such a 
society must have been formed, for in 924 a golden bull of Romanus Lecaptenus 
speaks of the restoration by that emperor of the monastery of Xeropotamu. which 
had been destroyed by the Saracens, and was now rebuilt. See Gass, De eltxustri$ 
in MoHi$ Atho sitis eommentcuio historica, p. 6. The Olympus mentioned in the 
text, though called by Genesius * the celebrated Mount Olympus,* is undoubtedly 
the Bithynian mountain. Ed.] 
. * Genesius, 39. 

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AJ>. 842-867.] 

mined to secure the services of the church for her deceased 
husband. She declared that in his last agony Theophilus had 
received and kissed an image she laid on his breast. Although 
it was more than probable that the agony had really passed 
before the occurrence happened, her statement satisfied Me- 
thodios and the synod, who consented to absolve their dead 
emperor from excommunication as an Iconoclast, and admit 
him into the bosom of the orthodox church, declaring that, 
things having happened as the Empress Theodora certified 
in a written attestation, Theophilus had found pardon from 

The victory of the image-worshippers was celebrated by the 
installation of the long-banished pictures in the church of 
St. Sophia, on the 19th February 84:^, just thirty days after 
the death of TTieophilus^ This festival continues to be ob- 
served in the Greek church as the feast of orthodoxy on the 
first Sunday of Lent^ 

The first military expedition of the regency was to repress 

* Contin. 9c. 

* Pagi ad Baron., a.d. 843. The Patriarch Methodiosdid not escape the calumny 
which had been employed by his partisans against his predecessor. An accusation 
of adultery was brought against lum, but the Patriarch is said to have proved its 
falsity to the assembled clergy in a singular manner. Contin. 99. 

" [At the end of this controversy it is interesting to enquire, how the present 
Tiew of the Eastern Church on the subject grew up. It is well known that that 
communion at the present day proscribes statues (d^'JA/iara), while pictures, or 
icons, (cItokci) are universally revered. But throughout the Iconoclastic contro- 
versy, statues were the objects of attack and defence just as much as pictures, and 
in the acts of the Fourth Synod of Constantinople, in 879, no such distinction 
is made. The change seems to have been brought about very gradually: so 
much so. that no trace remains to us of the steps by which it came to pass. The 
causes of it have been ably stated by Milman, in his History of Latin Christianity 
(vi. p. 413): *To the keener perception of the Greeks there may have arisen 
a feeling that, in its more rigid and solid form, the image was more near to the 
idoL At the same time the art of sculpture and cast'mg in bronze was probably 
more degenerate and out of use ; at all events it was too slow and laborious to 
supply the demand of triumphant zeal for the restoration of the persecuted images. 
There was, therefore, a tacit compromise ; nothing appeared but painting, mosaics, 
engraving on cups and chalices, embroidery on vestments. The renunciation of 
sculpture grew into a rigid passionate aversion. The Greek at length learned 
to contemplate that kind of more definite representation of the Deity, or the 
saints, witn the aversion of a Jew or a Monammedan.' That the instinctive 
objection to a material image has been all along at work, is confirmed by the 
remark made to me by an intelligent monk on Mount Athos, that the icon merely 
served for a likeness or remembrance of a person, while the statue expressed 
beauty and caused sensual gratification. As far as I am aware, only one statue 
now remains in the Greek Church,— a wooden statue of St Clement of Rome 
in the metropolitan church of Ochrida (Achrida) in Western Macedonia. I have 
elsewhere suggested {Highlands of Turkey, i. pp. 187, 191) that this statue dates 
from the time of Cyril and Methodius, who transported the body of St. Clement 
from the East to Rome, and one of whose followers, Clement of Ochrida, after 
their death, retired to his native city and fotmded a monastery there. Reverence 

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[Bk.LCh.III. §3. 

a rebellion of the Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus, which had 
commenced during the reign of Theophilus, On this occasion 
the mass of the Sclavonian colonists was reduced to complete 
submission, and subjected to the regular system of taxation ; 
but two tribes settled on Mount Taygetus, the Ezerits and 
Melings, succeeded in retaining a certain degree of independ- 
ence, governing themselves according to their own usages, and 
paying only a fixed annual tribute. For the Ezerits this 
tribute amounted to three hundred pieces of gold, and for the 
Melings to the trifling sum of sixty. The general who com- 
manded the Byzantine troops on this occasion was Theoktistos 
Briennios, who held the office of protospatharios^. 

In the mean time Theoktistos the regent, anxious to obtain 
that degree of power and influence which, in the Byzantine as 
in the Roman empire, was inseparable from military renown, 
took the command of a great expedition into Colchis, to con- 
quer the Abasges. His fleet was destroyed by a tempest, and 
his troops were defeated by the enemy. In order to r^^in 
the reputation he had lost, he made an attempt in the follow- 
ing year to reconquer the island of Crete from the Saracens. 
But while he was engaged in the si^e of Chandax (Candia), 
the report of a revolution at Constantinople induced him to 
quit his army, in order to look after his personal interests and 
political intrigues. The troops suffered severely after they 
were abandoned by their general, whom they were compelled 
at last to follow ^ 

The war with the caliph of Bagdad still continued, and the 
destruction of a Saracen fleet, consisting of four hundred 
galleys, by a tempest off" Cape Chelidonia, in the Kibyrraiot 
theme, consoled the Byzantine government for its other losses. . 

for his memory would cause it to be spared. Von Hahn, who has since visitf^d 
Ochrida, is also of opinion that its date is earlier than the capture of that place 
by Basil II. in 1018 {Rti&e durch die Gebi$U des Drin und Wardar, p. 119). The 
crucifix came to be proscribed in the same way. The only remaining specimens 
of this that I am acquainted with are one at Ochrida in the same church with the 
statue, and one at the monastery of Xeropotamu on Mount Athos, a reputed gift 
of the Empress Pulcheria. There is a third at the monastery of Chrysopegi near 
Canea in Crete, but this presents so many unusual features, as to render it 
doubtful whether it is truly Byzantine, or whether it is not rather a gift of the 
Venetians. Ed.] 

* Constant. Porphyr. De Adm, Imp. cap. 50. Thb Theoktistos must not be 
confounded with tne regent, who never returned successful from any expedition. 
Contin. 126. 

* Contm. 136. About this time Weil (ii. 343) mentions that a Cretan fleet 
threatened to blockade the Hellespont. 

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AJ). 841-867.] 

The caliph had expected, by means of this great naval force, 
to secure the command of the Archipelago and assist the 
operations of his armies in Asia Minor. The hostilities on 
the Cilician frontier were prosecuted without any decided 
advantage to either party, until the unlucky Theoktistos 
placed himself at the head of the Byzantine troops. His 
incapacity brought on a general engagement, in which 
the imperial army was completely defeated, at a place 
called Mauropotamos, near the range of Mount Taurus^. 
After this battle, an officer of reputation, (Theophanes, from 
Fergana,) disgusted with the severity and blunders of Theok- 
tistos, deserted to the Saracens and embraced Islamism. At 
a subsequent period, however, he again returned to the 
Byzantine service and the Christian religion^. 

In the year 845, an exchange of prisoners was effected on 
the banks of the river Lamus, a day's journey to the west of 
Tarsus. This was the first that had taken place since the 
taking of Amorium, The frequent exchange of prisoners 
between the Christians and the Mussulmans always tended 
to soften the miseries of war ; and the cruelty which inflicted 
martyrdom on the forty-two prisoners of rank taken at 
Amorium in the beginning of this year, seems to have been 
connected with the interruption of the negotiations which had 
previously so often facilitated these exchanges ^ 

A female regency was supposed by the barbarians to be of 
necessity a period of weakness. The Bulgarians, under this 
impression, threatened to commence hostilities unless the 
Byzantine government consented to pay them an annual 
subsidy. A firm answer on the part of Theodora, accom- 
panied by the display of a considerable military force on the 
frontier, however, restrained the predatory disposition of King 
Bc^oris and his subjects. Peace was re-established after 

* Georg. Mon., in Script, pwt Theoph. 539. 

• Leo Gramm. 457, jjSi ; Georg. Mon. 533. Guards from Fergana {<papy6at<H 
6:^*9) are mentioned as having been sent to Italy in the time of Romanus I., 
A.D. 935. Constant. Porphyr. De Caeretnoniis Aulae Byzandnae^ 381, 434. edit. 
Leich. It must be observed, however, that there was a country called Fergunna, 
and Fraganeo Civitates, among the Sclavonians in Polabia. Schafarik, Shunscht 
Alttrtkwner, ii. 607, 630. So extensive were the relations of the Byzantine empire, 
that it is not easy to decide between the Sclavonians of the West and the Turks of 
the East. 

» Abulpharagius, Ck, Arab. 167 ; Constant. Porphyr. De Caer. Aula$ Byzantina$ 

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[Bk.I.C&.m. §3i 
some trifling hostilities, an exchange of prisoners took place, 
the commercial relations between the two states became closer; 
and many Bulgarians, who had lived so long in the Byzantine 
empire as to have acquired the arts of civilized life and a 
knowledge of Christianity, returning to their homes, prepared 
their countrymen for receiving a higher d^^ee of social 
culture, and with it the Christian religion. 

The disturbed state of the Saracen empire, under the 
Caliphs Vathek and Motawukel, would have enabled the 
regency to enjoy tranquillity, had religious zeal not impelled 
the orthodox to persecute the inhabitants of the empire in the 
South-eastern provinces of Asia Minor. The regency un- 
fortunately followed the counsels of the bigoted party, which 
regarded the extinction of heresy as the most important duty 
of the rulers of the state. Christians whose opinions deviated 
from the official standard of orthodoxy, were persecuted with 
so much cruelty that they were driven to rebellion, and 
compelled to solicit protection for their lives and property 
from the Saracens, who seized the opportunity of transport- 
ing hostilities within the Byzantine frontiers. 

The Paulicians were the heretics most hateful to the 
orthodoxy of Constantinople. They were enemies of image- 
worship, and showed little respect to the authority of a 
church establishment, for their priests devoted themselves to 
the service of their fellow-creatures without forming them- 
selves into a separate order of society, or attempting to 
establish a hierarchical organization. Their social and political 
opinions were viewed with as much hatred and alarm by the 
ecclesiastical counsellors of Theodora, as the philanthropic 
principles of the early Christians had been by the pagan 
emperors of Rome, and the same calumnies were circulated 
among the orthodox against the Paulicians, which had been 
propagated amongst the heathen against the Christians. 
They were accused of Manicheanism, and the populace of 
Constantinople was taught to exult in their tortures as the 
populace of Rome had been persuaded to delight in the 
cruelties committed on the early Christians who were calum- 
niated as enemies of the human race. 

From the time of Constantine V. the Paulicians generally 
enjoyed some degree of toleration ; but the regency of 
Theodora resolved to consummate the triumph of orthodoxy, 

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iui. 843-867.] 

by a cruel persecution of all who refused to conform to the 
ceremonies of the established church. Imperial commis- 
sioners were sent into the Paulician districts to enforce 
ecclesiastical union, and every individual who resisted the 
invitations of the clergy was either condemned to death or 
his property was confiscated. It is the boast of orthodox his- 
torians that ten thousand Paulicians perished in this manner. 
Far greater numbers, however, escaped into the province of 
Melitene, where the Saracen emir granted them protection, 
and assisted them to plan schemes of revenge ^. 

The cruelty of the Byzantine administration at last goaded 

the oppressed to resistance within the empire; and the 

injustice displayed by the officers of the government induced 

many, who were themselves indifferent on the religious 

question, to take up arms against oppression. Karbeas, one 

of the principal officers on the staff of Theodotos Melissenos, 

the general of the Anatolic theme, hearing that his father had 

been crucified for his adherence to the doctrines of the 

Paulicians, fled to the emir of Melitene, and collected a body 

of five thousand men, with which he invaded the empire^. 

The Paulician refugees were established, by the caliph's order, 

in two cities called Argaous and Amara ; but their number 

soon increased so much, by the arrival of fresh emigrants, 

that they formed a third establishment at a place called 

Tephrike (Divreky), in the district of Sebaste (Sivas), in a 

secluded country of difficult access, where they constructed a 

strong fortress and dwelt in a state of independence ^. Omar, 

the emir of Melitene, at the head of a Saracen army, and 

Karbeas with a strong body of Paulicians, ravaged the frontiers 

of the empire. They were opposed by Petronas, the brother 

of Theodora, then general of the Thrakesian theme. The 

Byzantine army confined its operations to defence; while 

Alim, the governor of Tarsus, having been defeated, and civil 

war breaking out in the Saracen dominions in consequence of 

the cruelties of the Caliph Motawukel, the incursions of the 

* Con tin. 103. 

* Contin. 103. 

» Saint-Martin, Mhnoires sur VArmitue, i. 188. The secluded position of Divreky 
made it the seat of an almost independent band of Kurds when it was visited by 
Otter in 1743. Voyag* tn Tvrquie tt tn First, ii. 306. It contains at present 
about two thousand houses, situated in a fertile valley amidst luxuriant gardens. 
Ainsworth, TVavels and Risearches in Asia Minor, ii. 7. 

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[ §3. 

Paulicians were confined to mere plundering forays. In the 

mean time a considerable body of Paulicians continued to 

dwell in several provinces of the empire, escaping persecution 

by outward conformity to the Greek church, and by paying 

exactly all the dues levied on them by the Byzantine clergy. 

The whole force of the empire was not directed against the 

Paulicians until some years later, during the reign of Basil I. 

In the year 852, the regency revenged the losses inflicted 
by the Saracen pirates on the maritime districts of the empire, 
by invading Egypt. A Byzantine fleet landed a body of 
troops at Damietta, which was plundered and burned ; the 
country round was ravaged, and six hundred female slaves 
were carried away ^. 

Theodora, like her female predecessor Irene, displayed 
considerable talents for government. She preserved the 
tranquillity of the empire, and increased its prosperity in spite 
of her persecuting policy; but, like Irene, she n^lected her 
duty to her son in the most shameful manner. In the series 
of Byzantine sovereigns from Leo III. (the Isaurian) to 
Michael IIL, only two proved utterly unfit for the duties of 
their station, and both appear to have been corrupted by the 
education they received from their mothers. The unfeeling 
ambition of Irene, and the heartless vanity of Theodora, were 
the original causes of the folly of Constantine VI. and the 
vices of Michael III. The system of education generally 
adopted at the time seems to have been singularly well 
-adapted to form men of ability, as we see in the instances 
of Constantine V., Leo IV., and Theophilus, who were all 
educated as princes and heirs to the empire. Even if we 
take the most extended view of Byzantine society, we shall 
find that the constant supply of great talents displayed in 
the public service must have been the result of careful cultiva- 
tion and judicious systematic study. No other monarchical 
government can produce such a long succession of able 
ministers and statesmen as conducted the Byzantine adminis- 
tration during the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries. The 
remarkable deficiency of original genius during this period 
only adds an additional proof that the mind was disciplined 
by a rigid system of education. 

* We owe the knowledge of this expedition to the Arabic Chronicle of Abul- 
pharagius, p. 170. 

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Theodora abandoned the care of her child^ education to 
her brother Bardas, of whose tastes and talents she may have 
been a very incompetent judge, but of whose debauched 
manners she must have seen and heard too much. With the 
assistance of Theoktistos she arrogated to herself the sole 
direction of the public administration, and viewed with in- 
difference the course of idleness and profligacy by which 
Bardas corrupted the principles of her son in his endeavour 
to secure a mastery over his mind. Both mother and uncle 
appear to have expected to profit by the young emperor's 
vices. Bardas soon became a prime favourite, as he not only 
afforded the young emperor every facility for gratifying his 
passions, but supported him in the disputes with the regency 
that originated in his lavish expenditure. Michael at last 
came to an open quarrel with his mother. He had fallen 
in love with Eudocia, the daughter of Inger, of the great 
family of the Martinakes, a connection which both Theodora 
and Theoktistos viewed with alarm, as likely to create a 
powerful opposition to their political influence^. To pre- 
vent a marriage, Theodora succeeded in compelling Michael, 
who was then in his sixteenth year, to marry another 
lady named Eudocia, the daughter of Dekapolitas. The 
young debauchee, however, made Eudocia Ingerina his 
mistress, and, towards the end of his reign, bestowed her 
in marriage on Basil the Macedonian as a mark of his favour. 
She became the mother of the Emperor Leo VI., the 
Wise 2. 

This forced marriage enabled Bardas to excite the animosity 
of Michael against the regency to such a degree that he was 
persuaded to sanction the murder of Theoktistos, whose able 
financial administration was so generally acknowledged that 
Bardas feared to contend openly with so honest a minister. 
Theoktistos was arrested by order of the young emperor, and 
murdered in prison. The majority of Michael III. was not 
immediately proclaimed, but Bardas was advanced to the 

* A prophecy is said to have announced that this family should give the empire 
a longer succession of emperors than the Amorian dynasty. Contin. 75. 

■ "nicre seems a doubt whether Eudocia Ingeiina s first son, after her marriage 
with Basil, was named Constantine or Leo. Symeon Mag. (449) and Leo Gramm. 
(473) call him Constantine : but George the Monk (540) and Leo Gramm, him- 
self (468) call him Leo. Whatever his name was, he was generally supposed to 
be the child of Michael IIL 

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[Bk.LCh.III. S3, 
office of Master of the Horse, and assumed the direction of 
the administration. He was consequently regarded as the 
real author of the murder of Theoktistos ^. 

Theodora, though her real power had ceased, continued to 
occupy her place as empress-regent ; but in order to prepare 
for her approaching resignation, and at the same time prove 
the wisdom of her financial administration, and the value 
of the services of Theoktistos, by whose counsels she had 
been guided, she presented to the senate a statement of the 
condition of the imperial treasury. By this account it 
appeared that there was then an immense accumulation of 
specie in the coffers of the state. The sum is stated to have 
consisted of 109,000 lb. of gold, and 300,000 lb. of silver, 
besides immense stores of merchandise, jewels, and plate. 
The Empress Theodora was evidently anxious to guard 
against all responsibility, and prevent those calumnious 
accusations which she knew to be common at the Byzantine 
court. The immense treasure thus accumulated would pro- 
bably have given immortal strength to Byzantine society, 
had it been left in the possession of the people, by a wise 
reduction in the amount of taxation, accompanied by a 
judicious expenditure for the defence of the frontiers, and for 
facilitating the conveyance of agricultural produce to distant 
markets ^. 

The Empress Theodora continued to live in the imperial 
palace, after the murder of Theoktistos, until her regency 
expired, on her son attaining the age of eighteen ^ Her 
residence must have been rendered a torture to her mind 
by the unseemly exhibitions of the debauched associates 
of her Son. The eagerness of Michael to be delivered from 

* Theophanes of Fergana, who had returned and become captain of the guard, 
was one of the murderers. Symeon Mag. 435 ; George Mon. 533. The history 
of the murder is detailed in the Continuator (105) and Genesius (4J). 

' Contin. 108; Symeon Mag. 436. The gold may have equalled 3,350^000 
sovereigns, and the silver 4,000,000 crown-pieces, equal perhaps in value to more 
than double that sum at Constantinople, and probably more valuable than four 
times that sum in the rest of Europe. But ail comparisons of the value of money 
at different times must be mere conjecture. Coin travels along bad roads with 
greater difficulty than merchandise. 

» He was more than three years old at his father's death. Contin. 9a. He 
reigned with Theodora more than fourteen years. Krug, Ckronologit der Byzam- 
liner, 3. Theoktistos was murdered in the thirteenth year of his reign. Symeon 
Mag. 435. From the conclusion of Theodora's regency Michael reigned upwards 
of eleven years. Nicephorus Pat. Compend. 403, at the end of Syn^lus. Many 
anecdotes confirm this chronology. Schlosser, 572. 

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A.D. 843-«67.] 

her presence at length caused him to send both his mother 
and his sisters to reside in the Carian Palace, and even to 
attempt persuading the Patriarch Ignatius to give them the 
veil. After her banishment from the imperial palace, Theo- 
dora still hoped to recover her influence with her son, if 
she could separate him from Bardas; and she engaged in 
intrigues with her brother's enemies, whose secret object 
was his assassination \ This conspiracy was discovered, and 
only tended to increase the power of Bardas. He was now 
raised to the dignity of curopalat. Theodora and the sisters 
of Michael were removed to the monastery of Gastria, the 
usual residence of the ladies of the imperial family who were 
secluded from the world. After the death of Bardas, however, 
Theodora recovered some influence over her son; she was 
allowed to occupy apartments in the palace of St. Mamas, 
and it was at a party in her rural residence at the Anthemian 
Palace that Michael was assassinated^. Theodora died in 
the first year of the reign of Basil I. ; and Thekla, the sister 
of Michael, who had received the imperial title, and was as 
debauched in her manners as her brother, continued her 
scandalous life during great part of Basil's reign ^ ; yet 
Theodora is eulogized as a saint by the ecclesiastical writers 
of the Western as well as the Eastern church, and is honoured 
with a place in the Greek calendar. 

Encouraged by the counsels and example of Bardas, Michael 
plunged into every vice. His orgies obtained for him the 
name of the Drunkard ; but, in spite of his vicious conduct, 
his devotion to chariot-races and his love of festivals gave 
him considerable popularity among the people of Constan- 
tinople. The people were amused by his follies, and the 
citizens profited by his lavish expenditure. Many anecdotes 
concerning his vices have been preserved, but they are deserving 
of detailed notice only as proofs of the great demoralization 
then existing at Constantinople, for, as facts concerning 
Michael, it is probable they have received their colouring 
from the flatterers of the dynasty of his assassin. Michael's 
unworthy conduct, however, ultimately rendered him con- 
temptible to all classes. Had the emperor confined himself 

* Symcon Mag. 435 ; Georg. Mon. 534. 

* Symeon Mag. 451 ; Georg. Mon. 541 ; Leo Gramm. 468. 

* Georg. Mon. 545 ; Leo Gramm. 471. 

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[ 13. 

to appearing as a charioteer in the Hippodrome, it would 

have been easily pardoned ; but he carried his extravagance 

so far as to caricature the ceremonies of the orthodox church, 

and publicly to burlesque the religious processions of the 

clergy. The indifference of the people to this ribaldry seems 

doubly strange, when we reflect on the state of superstition 

into which the Constantinopolitans had fallen, and on the 

important place occupied by the Eastern church in Byzantine 

society \ Perhaps, however, the endeavours which had been 

made, both by the church and the emperors, to render church 

ceremonies an attractive species of public amusement, had 

tended to prepare the public mind for this irreverent caricature. 

It is always imprudent to trifle with a serious subject, and 

more especially with religion and religious feelings. At this 

time, music, singing, eloquence, magnificence of costume, and 

scenic effect, had all been carefully blended with architectural 

decoration of the richest kind in the splendid church of 

St. Sophia, to excite the admiration and engage the attention. 

The consequence was, that religion was the thing least thought 

of by the people, when they assembled together at ecclesiastical 

festivals. Their object was to enjoy the music, view the 

pageantry, and criticize the performers. Michael gratified 

the supercilious critics by his caricatures, and gave variety 

to the public entertainments by the introduction of comedy 

and farce. The necessity of this was felt in the Roman 

Catholic church, which authorized similar saturnalia, to prevent 

the ground being occupied by opponents. The Emperor 

Michael exhibited a clever but very irreverent caricature of 

the ecclesiastical processions of the Patriarch and clergy of 

Constantinople. The masquerade consisted of an excellent 

buffoon arrayed in the patriarchal robes, attended by eleven 

mimic metropolitan bishops in full costume, embroidered with 

gold, and followed by a crowd disguised as choristers and 

priests. This cortege, accompanied by the emperor in person, 

as if in a solemn procession, walked through the streets of 

the capital singing ridiculous songs to psalm tunes, and 

burlesque hymns in praise of debauchery, mingling the rich 

melodies of Oriental church-music with the discordant nasal 

* It reminds us of the irreverent treatment that the gods whom the State 
honoured received at Athens from Aristophanes. 

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i,D.84«-867.] ^ 

scfeams of Greek popular ballads. This disgraceful exhi- 
bition was frequently repeated, and on one occasion encountered 
the real Patriarch, whom the buffoon saluted with ribald 
courtesy, without exciting a burst of indignation from the 
pious Greeks^. 

The depravity of society in all ranks had reached the 
most scandalous pitch. Bardas, when placed at the head of 
the public administration, took no care to conceal his vices ; 
he was accused of an incestuous intercourse with his son's 
wife, while the young man held the high office of generalissimo 
of the European troops '^. Ignatius the Patriarch was a man 
of the highest character, eager to obtain for the church in 
the East that moral supremacy which the papal power now 
arrogated to itself in the West. Disgusted with the vices of 
Bardas, he refused to administer the sacrament to him on 
Advent Sunday, when it was usual for all the great digni- 
taries of the empire to receive the holy communion from 
the hands of the. Patriarch ; A.D. 857. Bardas, to revenge 
himself for this public mark of infamy, recalled to the memory 
of the young emperor the resistance Ignatius had made to 
Theodora's receiving the veil, and accused him of holding 
private communication with a monk who had given himself 
out to be a sop of Theodora, bom before her marriage with 
Theophilus. As this monk was known to be mad, and as 
many senators and bishops were attached to Ignatius, it 
would have been extremely difficult to convict the Patriarch 
of treason on such an accusation ; and there appeared no 
possibility of framing any charge of heresy against him. 
Michael was, however, persuaded to arrest him on various 
charges of having committed acts of sedition, and to banish 
him to the island of Terebinthos. 

It was now necessary to look out for a new Patriarch, and 
the circumstances required that the successor of Ignatius 
should be a man of high character as well as talent, for 
the deposed Patriarch had occupied no ordinary position. 
His father and his maternal grandfather (Michael I. and 

■ Contin. 134. If the fable of the female Pope Joanna proves anything, it may 
be received as evidence that the state of society at Rome was little better than at 
Constantinople. The imaginary female pope was supposed to be a contemporary 
of the real drunken emperor. 

' Symeon Mag. 439 : fioroirrpdniyot iwv htriicbv. 

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Nicephorus I.) had both filled the throne of Constantinople ; 

he was celebrated for his piety and his devotion to the 

cause of the church. But his party zeal had already raised 

up a strong opposition to his measures in the bosom of the 

church; and Bardas took advantage of these ecclesiastical 

dissensions to make the contest concerning the patriarchate 

a clerical struggle, without bringing the state into direct 

collision with the church, whose factious spirit did the work 

of its own d^radation, Gregory, a son of the Emperor 

Leo v., the Armenian, was Bishop of Syracuse. He had 

been suspended by the Patriarch Methodios for consecrating 

a priest out of his diocese. During the patriarchate of 

Ignatius, the hereditary hostility of the sons of two rival 

emperors had perpetuated the quarrel, and Ignatius had 

probably availed himself with pleasure of the opportunity 

offered him of excommunicating Gregory as some revenge 

for the loss of the imperial throne. It was pretended that 

Gr^ory had a hereditary aversion to image-worship, and 

the suspicions of Methodios were magnified by the animosity 

of Ignatius into absolute heresy*. This dispute had been 

referred to Pope Benedict III., and his decision in favour 

of Ignatius had induced Gregory and his partisans, who were 

numerous and powerful, to call in question the l^pility of 

the election of Ignatius. Bardas, availing himself of this 

ecclesiastical contest, employed threats, and strained the 

influence of the emperor to the utmost, to induce Ignatius 

to resign the patriarchate; but in vain. It was, therefore, 

decided that Photius should be elected Patriarch without 

obtaining a formal resignation of the office from. Ignatius, 

whose election was declared null. 

Photius, the chief secretary of state, who was thus suddenly 

raised to the head of the Eastern church, was a man of high 

rank, noble descent, profound learning, and great personal 

influence. If we believe his own declaration, publicly and 

frequently repeated, he was elected against his will ; and 

there seems no doubt that he could not have opposed the 

selection of the emperor without forfeiting all rank at court. 

» Genesius, 47 ; Symeon Mag. 443. Schlosser (p. 593) points out that Gregory, 
one of the sons of Leo the Annenian, was the same person with Gregory Asb^tas, 
archbishop of Syracuse. Coleti, Cwtil, x. 698 ; Nicetas, Vita JgnaiiL 

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AJ>. 843-867.] 

and perhaps incurring personal danger^. His popularity, 
his intimate acquaintance with civil and canon law, and his 
family alliance with the imperial house, gave him many 
advantages in his new rank. Like his celebrated predecessors, 
Tarasios and Nicephoros, he >vas a layman when his election 
took place. On the 20th December, 857, he was consecrated 
a monk by Gr^ory, archbishop of Syracuse ; on the following 
day he became an anagnostes ; the day after, a sub-deacon -, 
next day he was appointed deacon ; on the 24th he received 
priest's orders. He was then formally elected Patriarch in 
a synod, and on Christmas-day solemnly consecrated in the 
church of St. Sophia ^. 

The election of Photius was evidently illegal, and it in- 
creased the dissensions already existing in the church ; but 
these dissensions drew off the attention of the people in some 
degree from political abuses, and enabled Bardas to constitute 
the civil power judge in ecclesiastical matters. Ignatius and 
the leading men of his party were imprisoned and ill treated ; 
but even the clergy of the party of Photius could not escape 
being insulted and carried before the ordinary tribunals, if 
they refused to comply with the iniquitous demands of the 
courtiers, or ventured to oppose the injustice of the govern- 
ment officials. Photius soon bitterly repented having rendered 
himself the agent of such men as Bardas and Michael ; and as 
he knew their conduct and characters before his election, we 
may believe the assertion he makes in his letters to Bardas 
hinoself , and which he repeats to the Pope, that he was com- 
pelled to accept the patriarchate against bis wish^ 

In the mean time, Ignatius was allowed so much liberty by 
the crafty Bardas, who found Photius a less docile instrument 

» Photius was the grand-nephew of the Patriarch Tarasios, who like himself 
bad been raised froni the post of secretary of state to rule the church. Letter 
of Photins to Pope Nicholas in Histoire de Photius, par I'AbW Jager (448) — a 
prejudiced and not very accurate work. Irene, sister of the Empress Theodora, 
was married to Sergius, the brother of Photius. Ducange, Fam. Aug. Byz. 135 ; 
Can tin. 109; Cedrenus, 545. The Abb^ Jager says that Arsaber, who married 
another sister of Theodora (Kalomeria), was uncle to Photius. 

' Baronius {AnnaUs Ecclis, x.\ Coleti {Condi, ix. and x.), and Photius (£/ts/o/a^, 
London, 165 1), are the chief sources of ecclesiastical history for this period. The 
account of Photius in the work of Hankius, De ByzanHnarum Rerum Scriptoribus 
Orttecis (p. 269), deserves attention. 

• Photii Epistdae, 3 and 6; Schlosser, 602. The Histoire de Photius, by the 
Abb6 Jager. gives a letter to Pope Nicholas confirming this unwillingness, pp. 34 
and 433. 

VOL. 11. N 

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than he had expected, that his partisans assembled a synod in 

the church of Irene for forty days. In this assembly Photius 

and his adherents were excommunicated. Bardas, however, 

declared in favour of Photius, and allowed him to hold a 

counter-synod in the Church of the Holy Apostles, in which 

the election of Ignatius was declared uncanonical, as having 

been made by the Empress Theodora in opposition to the 

protest of several bishops ^ The persecution of Ignatius was 

renewed ; he was exiled to Mitylene, and his property was 

sequestrated, in the hope that by these measures he would be 

induced to resign the patriarchal dignity. Photius, however, 

had the sense to see that this persecution only increased his 

rival's popularity and strengthened his party; he tlierefore 

persuaded the emperor to recall him, and reinstate him in the 

possession of his private fortune. Photius must have felt 

that his own former intimacy with his debauched relation 

Bardas, and his toleration of the vices of Michael, had fixed 

a deep stain on his character in the eyes of all sincere 


It was necessary to legalize the election of Photius, and 
obtain the ratification of the deposition of Ignatius by a 
general council of the church ; but no general council could 
be convoked without the sanction of the Pope. The Emperor 
Michael consequently despatched ambassadors to Rome, to 
invite Pope Nicholas I. to send legates to Constantinople, for 
the purpose of holding a general council, to put an end to the 
dissensions in the Eastern Church. Nicholas appointed two 
legates, Zacharias and Rodoald, who were instructed to ex- 
amine into the disputes concerning the patriarchate, and also 
to demand the restitution of the estates belonging to the 
patrimony of St. Peter in Calabria and Sicily, of which the 
papal See had been deprived in the time of Leo III. The 
Pope, moreover, required the emperor to fe-establish the papal 
jurisdiction ov^r the lUyrian provinces, and recognize his 
right to appoint the archbishop of Syracuse, and confirm the 
election of all the bishops in the European provinces of the 

The Popes were now beginning to arrogate to themselves 
that temporal power over the whole church which had grown 

' Schlosser, 603. 

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AJ). 843-867.] 

out of their new position as sovereign princes ; but they based 
their temporal ambition on that spiritual power which they 
claimed as the rock of St. Peter, not on the donation of Char- 
lemagne. The truth is, that the first Christian emperors had 
laid a firm foundation for the papal power, by constituting the 
Bishop of Rome a kind of secretary of state for Christian 
affairs. He was employed as a central authority for com- 
municating with the bishops of the provinces ; and out of this 
circumstance it very naturally arose that he acted for a con- 
siderable period as minister of religion and public instruction 
in the imperial administration ; a position which conferred 
immense power in a government so strictly centralized as that 
of the Roman empire \ The Christian emperors of the West, 
being placed in more direct collision with paganism than those 
of the East, vested more extensive powers, both of adminis- 
tration and police, in the Bishop of Rome and the provincial 
bishops of the Western Church, than the clergy attained in 
the East. This authority of the bishops increased as the civil 
and military power of the Western Empire declined ; and 
when Rome became a provincial city of the Eastern Empire, 
the popes became the political chiefs of Roman society, and 
inherited no small portion of the influence formerly exercised 
by the imperial administration over the provincial ecclesias- 
tics. It is true, the Bishops of Rome could not exercise this 
power without control, but, in the opinion of a majority of the 
subjects of the barbarian conquerors in the West, the Pope 
was the legal representative of the civilization of imperial 
Rome as well as the legitimate successor of St. Peter and the 
guardian of the rock on which Christianity was founded. Un- 
less the authority of the popes be traced back to their original 
position as archbishops of Rome and patriarchs of the Western 
Empire, and the institutions of the papal church be viewed as 
they originally existed in connection with the imperial ad- 
ministration, the real value of the papal claims to universal 
domination, founded on traditional feelings, cannot be justly 
estimated. The popes only imitated the Roman emperors in 
their most exorbitant pretensions ; and the vicious principles 

* lA9i JTteodosii et VaUntimafu\ apud Seriptores rerutn Franctc. et Gallie. torn. 
i. 768. See Thierry, Histoire de la Conquitt de VAngUterre; Notes ei Piices Just, ; 
Cod. Theod. xvi. tit. a, De Episcopis Ecclesiis et Clericis ; Cod. Justin, i. 3, De EpiscoptM 
et CUricU; Nov, Valentin, i. tit 24, De Episcoporum Ordinations, 

N % 

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[Bk. L Ch. III. § a. 

of Constantine, while he was still a pagan, continue to exert 

their corrupt influence over the ecclesiastical institutions of 

the greater part of Europe to the present day. 

The popes early assumed that Constantine had conferred 
on the Bishop of Rome a supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction 
over the three European divisions of his don^inions, when he 
divided the empire into four prefectures *. There were, indeed, 
many facts which tended to support this claim. Africa, in so 
far as it belonged to the jurisdiction of the European prefec- 
tures, acknowledged the authority of the Bishop of Rome ; 
and even after the final division of the empire, Dacia, Mace- 
donia, Thessaly, Epirus, and Greece, though they were sepa- 
rated from the prefecture of Illyricum, and formed a new 
province of the Eastern Empire, continued to be dependent on 
the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Pope. The Patriarch of 
Antioch was considered the head of the church in the East. 
Egypt formed a peculiar district in the ecclesiastical, as it did 
in the civil administration of the Roman empire, and had its 
own head, the Patriarch of Alexandria. The Patriarchs of 
Jerusalem and Constantinople were modem creations. The 
bishop of Jerusalem, who had been dependent on the Patri- 
arch of Antioch, received the honorary title of Patriarch at the 
council of Nicaea, and the Emperor Theodosius II. conferred 
on him an independent jurisdiction over the three Palestines, 
the two Phoenicias, and Arabia ; but it was not until after the 
council of Chalcedon that his authority was acknowledged by 
the body of the church, and it was then restricted to the three 
Palestines ; A. D. 451. 

The bishop of Byzantium had been dependent on the 
metropolitan or exarch of Heraclea before the translation of 
the imperial residence to his See and the foundation of 
Constantinople. In the council held at Constantinople in 
381, he was first ranked as Patriarch, because he was the 
bishop of the capital of the Eastern Empire, and placed 
immediately after the Bishop of Rome in the ecclesiastical 
hierarchy. St. Chrysostom and his successors exercised the 
patriarchal jurisdiction, both in Europe and Asia, over the 
Eastern Empire, just as the popes of Rome exercised it in 
the Western, yielding merely a precedence in ecclesiastical 

* Zosimus, ii. 3^ 

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AJ>. 843-367.] 

honour to the representative of St. Peter*. In spite of the 
opposition of the bishops of old Rome, the bishops of new 
Rome thus attained an equality of power which made the 
popes tremble for their supremacy, and they r^arded the 
Patriarchs of Constantinople rather as rivals than as joint 
rulers of the church. Their ambitious jealousy, joined to the 
aspiring arrogance of their rivals, caused all the evils they 
feared. The disputes l)etween Ignatius and Photius now gave 
the Pope hopes of re-establishing the supremacy of Rome 
over the whole church, and of rendering the Patriarchs of the 
East merely vicegerents of the Roman See. 

The papal legates sent by Nicholas were present at a 
general council held at Constantinople in the year 861, which 
was attended by three hundred and eighteen bishops. Bardas 
and Photius had succeeded in securing the goodwill of 
the majority of the Eastern clei^. They also succeeded in 
gaining the support of the representatives of the Pope, if they 
did not purchase it. Ignatius, who was residing in his 
mother's palace of Posft, was required to present himself 
before the council. He was deposed, though he appealed to 
the Pope's l^ates, and persisted in protesting that the council 
did not possess a legal right to depose him. It is said that a 
pen was placed forcibly between his fingers, and a cross drawn 
with it, as his signature to the act of deposition. He was 
then ordered to read his abdication, on the day of Pentecost, 
in the Church of the Holy Apostles ; but, to avoid this dis- 
grace, he escaped in the disguise of a slave to the Prince's 
Islands, and concealed himself among the innumerable monks 
who had taken up their abode in those delicious retreats. 
Bardas sent Oryphas with six galleys to examine every one 
of the insular monasteries in succession, in order to arrest the 
fugitive ; but the search was vain. After the termination 
of the council, Ignatius returned privately to his maternal 
palace, where he was allowed to remain unmolested*. The 

* Socrates, Hiu, Ecchs. vii. 28; Cod, Theod, xvi a. 45; Council of Chalcedon, 
9th. 1 7th, and 2Sth canons. 

' He was said to have been indebted to an earthquake for this mild treatment. 
Bardas was frightened, and Photius was looked upon as impious for declaring 
from the pulpit that earthquakes were produced by physical causes acting upon 
the waters under the earth, and not from divine wrath to awaken mankind to 
a sense of their sins. Symeon Mag. 445. Photius, like his predecessor, John 
the Grammarian, was too learned for the populace, and hi» knowledge was 
attributed to personal intercourse with demons, who in that age were supposed 

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discussions of this council are said by its enemies to have 
been conducted in a very tumultuous manner} but as the 
majority was favoured by the Patriarch, the papal legates, 
and the imperial administration, it is not likely that any 
confusion was allowed within the walls of the council, even 
though the party of Ignatius was supported by the Empresses 
Theodora and Eudocia, and by the great body of the monks. 
The Emperor Michael, with great impartiality, refused to 
throw the whole weight of his authority in either scale. The 
truth is, that, being somewhat of a freethinker as well as a 
debauchee, he laughed at both parties, saying that Ignatius 
was the patriarch of the people, Photius the patriarch of 
Bardas, and Gryllos (the imperial buffoon) his own patriarch \ 
Nevertheless, Ignatius was deposed, and the acts of the 
council were ratified by the papal legates *. 

The legates of the Pope certainly yielded to improper 
influence, for, besides -approving the measures of the Byzan- 
tine government with reference to the patriarchate, they 
neglected to demand the recognition of the spiritual authority 
of the papal See in the terms prescribed by their instructions. 
They were consequently disavowed on their return to Rome. 
The party of Ignatius appealed to the Pope, who seeing that 
no concessions could be gained from Michael, Bardas, or 
Photius, embraced the cause of the deposed Patriarch with 
warmth. A synod was convoked at Rome ; Photius was 
excommunicated, in case he should dare to retain possession 
of the patriarchal chair, after receiving the papal decision in 
favour of Ignatius; A.D. 863. Gregory, the archbishop of 
Syracuse, who had ordained Photius, was anathematized, and 
declared a schismatic, if he continued t© perform sacerdotal 
functions, as well as all those who held communion with him. 
When the acts of this synod were communicated to Michael 
by papal letters, the indignation of the emperor was awakened 
by what he considered the insolent interference of a foreign 
priest in the affairs of the empire, and he replied in a violent 

to act as professors -of Hellenic literature and natural philosophy. Symeon gives 
some curious anecdotes to the disadvantage of Photius. 

* Gryllos, whom the emperor had employed to enact the patriarch, received 
from the people the name of the hog, from his low debauchery. 

^ This council is called by the Greeks the first and second, from having been 
held in two separate series of sessions. It seems that it re enacted the acts of 
the synod held oy Photius in 8 j 7. 

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AJ>. 843-867.3 

and unbecoming letter. He told his Holiness that he had 
invited him to send l^ates to the general council at Con- 
stantinople, from a wish to maintain unity in the church, not 
because the participation of the Bishop of Rome was 
necessary to the validity of the acts of the Eastern Church. 
This was all very reasonable ; but he went on to treat 
the Pope and the Latin clergy as barbarians, because they 
were ignorant of Greek. For this insult, however, the 
emperor received a sharp and well-merited rebuke from Pope 
Nicholas, who asked him why he styled himself Emperor of 
the Romans, if he thought the language of the Roman 
empire and of the Roman church a barbarous one. It was a 
greater disgrace, in the opinion of the Pope, for the Roman 
emperor to be ignorant of the Roman language, than for the 
head of the Roman church to be ignorant of Greek. 

Nicholas had nothing to fear from the power of Michael, so 
that he acted without the restraint imposed on Gregory H. in 
his contest with Leo the Isaurian. Indeed, the recent success 
of the Pope, in his dispute with Lothaire, king of Austrasia, 
gave him hopes of coming off victorious, even in a quarrel 
with the Eastern emperor. He did not sufficiently understand 
the effect of more advanced civilization and extended education 
on Byzantine society. Nicholas, therefore, boldly called on 
Michael to cancel his insolent letter, declaring that it would 
otherwise be publicly burned by the Latin clergy; and he 
summoned the rival Patriarchs of Constantinople to appear in 
person before the papal court, that he might hear and decide 
their differences. 

This pretension of the Pope to make himself absolute 
master of the Christian church awakened the spirit of 
resistance at Constantinople, and caused Photius to respond 
by advancing new claims for his See. He insisted that the 
Patriarchs of Constantinople were equal in rank and authority 
to the Popes of Rome. The disputes of the clergy being the 
only subject on which the government of the Eastern Empire 
allowed any expression of public opinion, the whole attention 
of society was soon directed to this ecclesiastical quarrel. 
Michael assembled a council of the church in 866, at which 
pretended representatives of the patriarchs of Antioch, 
Alexandria, and Jerusalem were present ; and in this as- 
sembly Pope Nicholas was declared unworthy of his See, and 

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[ $1. 

excommunicated. There was no means of rendering this 

sentence of excommunication of any effect, unless Louis II., 

the emperor of the West, could be induced, by the hatred he 

bore to Nicholas, to put it in execution. Ambassadors were 

sent to urge him to depose the Pope, but the death of Michael 

suddenly put an end to the contest with Rome, for his 

successor Basil I. embraced the party of Ignatius. 

The contest between Rome and Constantinople was not 
merely a quarrel between Pope Nicholas and the Patriarch 
Photius. There were other causes of difference between the 
two Sees, in which Ignatius was as much opposed to papal 
pretensions as Photius. Not to mention the old claim of 
Rome to recover her jurisdiction over those provinces of the 
Byzantine empire which had been dissevered from her 
authority, a new conflict had arisen for supremacy over the 
church in Bulgaria. When the Bulgarian king Crumn invaded 
the empire, after the defeat of Michael I , he carried away so 
many prisoners that the Bulgarians, who had already made 
considerable advances in civilization, were prepared, by their 
intercourse with these slaves, to receive Christianity. A 
Greek monk, Theodore Koupharas, who remained long a 
prisoner in Bulgaria, converted many by his preaching. 
During the invasion of Bulgaria by Leo V., a sister of King 
Bogoris was carried to Constantinople as a prisoner, and 
educated with care. The empress Theodora exchanged this 
princess for Theodore Koupharas, and on her return she 
introduced the Christian religion into her brother's palace. 

War subsequently broke out between the Bulgarian 
monarch and the empire, and Michael and Bardas made an 
expedition against the Bulgarians in the year 861 *. The 
circumstances of the war are not detailed ; but in the end the 
Bulgarian king embraced Christianity, receiving the name of 
Michael from the emperor, who became his sponsor. To 
purchase this peace, however, the Byzantine emperor ceded 
to the Bulgarians all the country along the range of Mount 
Haemus, called by the Greeks Sideras, and by the Bulgarians 
Zagora, of which Debeltos is the chief town 2. Michael 

* Symeon Mag. 440. In the fourth year of Michael's sole government. 

■ The Continuator (102) attributes this treaty to the Empress Theodora, bat 
the date seems more precisely given by Symeon Magister (440), Georg. Moa. 
(534)« This district had been ceded to the Bulgarians by Justinian 11^ but 

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AJ). 84^-867.] 

pretended that the cession was made as a baptismal donation 
to the king. The change in the religion of the Bulgarian 
monarch caused some discontent among his subjects, but their 
opposition was soon vanquished with the assistance of Michael, 
and the most refractory were transported to Constantinople, 
where the wealth and civilization of Byzantine society pro- 
duced such an impression on their minds that they readily 
embraced Christianity \ 

The Bulgarian monarch, fearing lest the influence of the 
Byzantine clergy on his Christian subjects might render him 
in some degree dependent on the emperor, opened communi- 
cations with Pope Nicholas for the purpose of balancing the 
power of the Greek clergy by placing the ecclesiastical affairs 
of his kingdom under the control of the Latins. He expected 
also to derive some political support for this alliance, when he 
saw the eagerness of the Pope to drive the Eastern clergy out 
of Bulgaria. Pope Nicholas appears to have thought that 
Photius would have made great concessions to the papal See, 
in order to receive the pallium from Rome; but when that 
Patriarch treated the question concerning the ecclesiastical 
jurisdiction of the Eastern church in Bulgaria as a political 
affair, and referred its decision to the imperial cabinet, the 
Pope sent legates into Bulgaria, and the churches of Rome 
and Constantinople were involved in a direct conflict for the 
ecclesiastical patronage of that extensive kingdom. At a 
later period, when Ignatius was re-established as Patriarch, 
and the general council of 869 was held to condemn the acts of 
Photius, Pope Hadrian found Ignatius as little inclined to 
make any concessions to the papal See in Bulgaria as his 
deposed rival, and this subject remained a permanent cause of 
quarrel between the two churches. 

Michael, though a drunkard, was not naturally deficient 
in ability, activity, or ambition. Though he left the ordinary 
administration of public business in the hands of Bardas, on 

recovered by Constantine V. [As the name Zagora is found in many parts of 
Greece, it may be well to remark that it signifies in Slavonic * behind the moun- 
tain.* Thus the district here spoken of is that behind Haemus, relatively to the 
northern kingdom of Bulgaria. Another Zagora is the district behind Pindas, 
to the north-west of the Zygos pass and Metzovo. A town of the same name 
is found on the sea-slopes of Pelion, being behind that mountain relatively to 
Thessaly. Ed.] 

* Leo Gramm 463. For the conversion of the Bulgarians, Contm. 101 ; Ce- 
drentis, ii. 540; Zonaras, ii. 156. 

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whom he conferred the title of Caesar, which was then almost 
equivalent to a recognition of his title as heir-apparent to the 
empire, still he never allowed him to obtain the complete 
control over the whole administration, nor permitted him 
entirely to crush his opponents in the public service*. Hence 
many officers of rank continued to regard the emperor, with 
all his vices, as their protector in office. Like all the emperors 
of Constantinople, Michael felt himself constrained to appear 
frequently at the head of his armies. The tie between the 
emperor and the soldiers was perhaps strengthened by these 
visits, but it can hardly be supposed that the personal pre- 
sence of Michael added much to the efficiency of military 

The war on the frontiers of the Byzantine and Saracen 
empires was carried on by Omar, the emir of Melitene, with- 
out interruption, in a series of plundering incursions on a 
gigantic scale. These were at times revenged by daring 
exploits on the part of the Byzantine generals. In the year 
856, Leo, the imperial commander-in-chief, invaded the domi- 
nions of the caliph. After taking Anazarba, he crossed the 
Euphrates at Samosata, and advanced with his army into 
Mesopotamia, ravaging the country as far as Amida. The 
Saracens revenged themselves by several plundering incur- 
sions into different parts of the empire. To stop these 
attacks, Michael put himself at the head of the army, and 
laid siege to Samosata without effect. Bardas accompanied 
the emperor rather to watch over his own influence at court 
than to assist his sovereign in obtaining military glory. The 
following year Michael was engaged in the campaign against 
the Bulgarians, of which the result has been already men- 
tioned. In 860, he led an army of 40,000 European troops 
against Omar of Melitene, who had carried his plundering 
incursions up to the walls of Sinope '^. A battle took place in 

' The nomination of Bardas as Caesar took place in the year 862, at Easter, 
according to Genesius (46). But Symeon Magister places it in the third year of 
Michael, or 860, while he places the victory of Petronas (which Genesius says 
preceded it) in the fifth, or 863. George the Monk and Leo Grammaticus foUow 
the same order as Symeon; while the Continuator (114) agrees with Genesius, 
and places the nomination of Bardas after the victory of Petronas. Yet the 
nomination of Bardas seems to be rightly fixed by Genesius, while the Arabian 
historians prove that the victory of Petronas occurred in 863. See p. 187, nou 2. 

' The Arabian historians pretend that Omar carried off 17,000 slaves, and 
Karbeas, with his Pauliciaas, 5000 in one expedition. Ali Ibu Yahia, governor 

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u). 841-867,] 

the territory of Dasymon, near the spot which had witnessed 

the defeat of Theophilus, and the overthrow of Michael was 

as complete as that of his father. The same difficulties in 

the ground which had favoured the retreat of Theophilus 

enabled Manuel, one of the generals of Michael, to save the 


The war was still prosecuted with vigour on both sides. 

In 863, Omar entered the Armeniac theme with a large force, 

and took Amisus. Petronas, the emperor's uncle, who had 

now acquired considerable military experience and reputation 

as general of the Thrakesian theme, was placed at the head of 

the Byzantine army 2. He collected his forces at Aghionoros, 

near Ephesus, and when his army was reinforced by a strong 

body of Macedonian and Thracian troops, marched towards 

the frontier in several divisions, which he concentrated in such 

a manner as to cut off the retreat of Omar, and enclosed him 

with an overwhelming force. The troops under Nasar, the 

general of the Boukellarian theme, strengthened by the 

Armeniac and Paphlagonian legions and the troops of the 

theme Koloneia, enclosed the Saracens on the north. Petro- 

nas himself, with the Thrakesian, Macedonian, and Thracian 

l^ons, secured the passes and advanced from the west; 

while the troops of the Anatolic, Opsikian, and Cappadocian 

themes, with the divisions of the Kleisourarchs ^ of Seleucia 

and Charsiana, having secured the passes to the south, cut off 

the direct line of Omar's retreat. An impassable range of 

rocky mountains, broken into precipices, rendered escape to 

the eastward impracticable. The headquarters of Petronas 

were established at Poson, a place situated on the frontiers of 

the Paphlagonian and Armeniac themes, near the river 

Lalakon, which flows from north to south. Omar had 

of Tarsus, was equally snccessfid. Abulpharagins (Bar Hebraeus) says that in 
a previous campaign the B3rzantine army had made 20,000 prisoners. Weil. 
Geuhiehu der Chali/en^ ii. 36.^ noie 3, and 365. These devastations deserve notice, 
as causes of the depopulation of the country. 

' Contin. no; Genesius, 44. It is evident that the details of the battle of 
Theophilus have been mixed up with those of this battle. The exploits attributed 
to the two Manuels are a mere transcript. There is so much confusion in the 
narrative and chronology of Michael's war with the Saracens, that it would 
occupy too much space to examine its details. Se§ Weil, ii. 365, note i. 

* For the date, see Abulfeda, Annal. Modem, ii. 109. Abulpharagius (Ch. Syr. 
l^\\ 249th year of the Hegira, from 23rd February 863 to lath February 864. 
Also Weil, ii. 380, nou 6. 

' [i.e. commanders of the mountain-passes. Ed.] 

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[ 5 5- 
encamped in a plain without suspecting the danger lurking 
in its rugged boundary to the east. He suddenly found 
himself enclosed by the simultaneous advance of the various 
divisions of the Byzantine army, and closely blockaded. He 
attempted to escape by attacking each division of the enemy 
in succession, but the strength of the positions selected by the 
imperial officers rendered all his attacks vain. Omar at last 
fell in the desperate struggle ; and Petronas, leading fresh 
troops into the plain to attack the weary Saracens, completed 
the destruction of their army. The son of Omar contrived to 
escape from the field of battle, but he was pursued and taken 
prisoner by the Kleisourarch of Charsiana, after he had crossed 
the Halys ^ When Petronas returned to Constantinople, he 
was allowed to celebrate his victory with great pomp and 
public rejoicings. The Byzantine writers estimated the army 
that was destroyed at 40,000, while the Arabian historians 
reduced their loss to only 2,000 men. Public opinion in the 
empire of the caliph, however, considered the defeat as a 
great calamity; and its real importance may be ascertained 
from the fact, that alarming seditions broke out against 
the government when the news reached Bagdad ^. After this 
victory, too, the eastern frontier enjoyed tranquillity for some 

In the year 865, a nation hitherto unknown made its first 
appearance in the history of the world, where it was destined 
to act no unimportant part Its entrance into the political 
system of the European nations was marked by an attempt to 
take Constantinople, a project which it has often revived, and 
which the progress of Christian civilization seems to indicate 
must now be realised at no very distant date, unless the 
revival of the Bulgarian kingdom to the south of the Danube 
create a new Sclavonian power in the east of Europe capable 
of arresting its progress ^ In the year 862, Rurik, a Scan- 

* It is not easy to determine the spot where thk battle was fought. Geneshis 
calls the place Ab^sianos, and says it was five hundred miles from Aminsot 
(p. 46). A valley m the vicinity was called Gyris. Contin. 113. Edrisi (Dr 
Oeograpkia^ ii. 308) places the valley Merdj Aluskuf twenty-four miles north-west 
of Baranda (Laranda), on the road from Tarsus to Abydos. This would place 
it in the Anatolic theme, among the Lycaonian counter-forts of Taurus, and would 
lead to the supposition that Omar was retreating to gain Tarsus, in order to jHaoe 
his booty in seairity. See Weil, ii. 381. 

« Weil, ii. 381. 

• Since this was written, a change has been made in the state of these countries 
by the Crimean War and by the union of Vallachia and Moldavia. [The state- 
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dinavian or Varangian chief, arrived at Novgorod, and laid the 
first foundation of the state which has grown into the Russian 
empire. The Russian people, under Varangian domination, 
rapidly increased in power, and reduced many of their neigh- 
bours to submission ^. Oskold and Dir, the princes of Kief, 
rendered themselves masters of the whole course of the 
Dnieper, and it would seem that either commercial jealousy 
or the rapacity of ambition produced some collision with the 
Byzantine settlements on the northern shores of the Black 
Sea; but from what particular circumstances the Russians 
were led to make their daring attack on Constantinople is not 
known ^. The Emperor Michael had taken the command of 
an army to act against the Saracens, and Oryphas, the admiral 
of the fleet, acted as governor of the capital during his absence. 
Before the Emperor had commenced his military operations, 
a fleet of two hundred Russian vessels of small size, taking 
advantage of a favourable wind, suddenly passed through the 
Bosphorus, and anchored at the mouth of the Black River in 
the Propontis, about eighteen miles from Constantinople ^ 
This Russian expedition had already plundered the shores 
of the Black Sea, and from its station within the Bosphorus 
it ravaged the country about Constantinople, and plundered 
the Prince's Islands, pillaging the monasteries, and slaying the 
monks as well as the other inhabitants. The emperor, in- 
formed by Oryphas of the attack on his capital, hastened to 
its defence. Though a daring and cruel enemy, the Russians 
were by no means formidable to the Byzantine forces. It 
required no great exertions on the part of the imperial oificers 
to equip a force sufficient to attack and put to flight these 
invaders ; but the horrid cruelty of the barbarians, and the 
wild daring of their Varangian leaders, made a profound 
impression on the people of Constantinople, suddenly ren- 
dered spectators of the miseries of war, in their most hideous 

ment in the text is as true now as when it was written, and ia a proof of great 
far-sightedness on the author^s part. £d.] 

' Riotius, Epistciae, p. 58. 

' La Ckroaique dt Nestor^ traduite par L. Paris, i. 22. 

' lUXvot fUka* is the bay at the mouth of the Athyras, Buyuk Tchekmadj^. 
The Russian vessels are called iiav6^v\a ; they must have been only decked boats, 
and twenty men to each will be an ample allowance. They cannot therefore have 
carried more than 4000 men when they passed the Bosphorus. The expedition 
seems not unlike those against which, about this time, Alfred had to contend in 
England, and Charles the Bald in France. 

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form, during a moment of perfect security. We need not, 
therefore, be surprised to find that the sudden destruction of 
these dreaded enemies by the drunken emperor, of whom the 
citizens of the capital may have entertained even more con- 
tempt than he merited as a soldier, was ascribed to the 
miraculous interposition of the Virgin of the Blachem, rather 
than to the superior military tactics and overwhelming num- 
bers of the imperial forces. How far this expedition of the 
Russians must be connected with the enterprising spirit of 
those vigorous warriors and pirates from Scandinavia, who 
gave sovereigns to Normandy, Naples, Sicily, England, and 
Russia, is still a subject of learned discussion ^. 

About the same time a fleet, manned by the Saracens of 
Crete, plundered the Cyclades, and ravaged the coast of Asia 
Minor, carrying off great booty and a number of slaves *. It 
would seem that the absence of the Emperor Michael from 
Constantinople at the time of the Russian attack was con- 
nected with this movement of the Saracens. 

Our conceptions of the manner in which the Byzantine 
empire was governed during MichaeFs reign, will become 
more precise if we enter into some details concerning the 
court intrigues and personal conduct of the rulers of the 
state. The crimes and assassinations, which figure as the 
prominent events of the age in the chronicles of the time, 
were not, it is true, the events that decided the fate of the 
people ; and they probably excited less interest among 
contemporaries who lived beyond the circle of court favour, 
than history would lead us to suppose. Each rank of society 
had its own robberies and murders to occupy its attention. 
The state of society at the court of Constantinople was not 
amenable to public opinion, for few knew much of what 
passed within the walls of the great palace; but yet the 
immense machinery of the imperial administration gave the 

* Wilken, Vher die Verhdhnisse der Russen zum Byzanliniscken Reicht, in the 
Transactions of the Academy of Berlin, Hist.'PhUolog. Klasse, 1829, p. 88. For 
the date of the expedition, see Bayer, De Russorum Prima Expiditione Constat' 
tinopoUlana, {Commentarii Acad. Scient, Petropoliianae^ torn, viii.) For the facts, 
Leo Gramm. 463; Georg. Mon. 535; the Life of the Patriarch Ignatius, by 
Niketas, annexed to the acts of the eighth oecumenic council, and Nestor's 
Russian Chronicle, 

* Contin. 122. This fleet consisted of twenty Kovfifi&pta, seven ftXiai, and 
some aarovpcu ; but it would perhaps be difficult to determine the size and class 
of these different vessels. 

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A.D. 842-867.] 

emperors' power a solid basis, always opposed to the tem- 
porary vices of the courtiers. The order which rendered 
property secure, and enabled the industrious classes to 
prosper, through the equitable administration of the Roman 
law, nourished the vitality of the empire, when the madness 
of a Nero and the drunkenness of a Michael appeared to 
threaten political order with ruin. The people, carefully 
secluded from public business, and alnrost without any 
knowledge of the proceedings of their government, were in 
all probability little better acquainted with the intrigfues and 
crimes of their day than we are at present. They acted, 
therefore, when some real suffering or imaginary grievance 
brought oppression directly home to their interests or their 
feelings. Court murders were to them no more than a 
tragedy or a scene in the amjAitheatre, at which they were 
not present. 

Bardas had assassinated Theoktistos to obtain power ; yet, 
with all his crimes, he had great natural talents and some 
literary taste. He had the reputation of being a good lawyer 
and a just judge ; and after he obtained power, he devoted 
his attention to watch over the judicial department as the 
surest basis of popularity. Nevertheless, we find the govern- 
ment of Michael accused of persecuting the wealthy, merely 
for the purpose of filling the public treasury by the 
confiscation of their property. This was an old Roman 
fiscal resource, which had existed ever since the days of the 
republic, and whose exercise under the earlier emperors calls 
forth the bitterness of Tacitus in some of his most vigorous 
pages. After Bardas was elevated to the dignity of Caesar, 
his mature age gave him a deeper interest in projects of 
ambition than in the wild debauchery of his nephew. He 
devoted more time to public business and grave society, and 
less to the wine-cup and the imperial feasts. New boon- 
companions assembled round Michael, and, to advance their 
own fortunes, strove to awaken some jealousy of the Caesar 
in the breast of the emperor. They solicited the office of 
spies to watch the conduct of one who, they said, was 
aspiring to the crown. Michael, seeing Bardas devoted to 
improving the administration of justice, reforming abuses in 
the army, regulating the affairs of the church, and protecting 
learning, felt how much he himself neglected his duties, 


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and naturally began to suspect his uncle. The refcMination 
of the Caesar was an act of sedition against the worthless 

The favourite parasite of Michael at this time was si man 
named Basil, who from a simple groom had risen to the rank 
of lord chamberlain. Basil attracted the attention of the 
emperor while still a stable-boy in the service of an officer 
of the court. The young groom had the good fortune to 
overcome a celebrated Bulgarian wrestler at a public wrest- 
ling-match. The impression produced by this victory over 
a foreigner^ who had been long considered invincible, was 
increased by a wonderful display of his power in taming 
the wildest horses, for he possessed the singular natural g^t 
of subduing horses by a whisper *. The emperor took him 
into his service as a groom ; but Basil's skill as a sportsman 
soon made him a favourite companion of one who showed 
little discrimination in the choice of his associates. Basils 
perseverance as a boon-companion at the imperial orgies, 
and his devotion to all the whims of the emperor, raised 
him quickly to the highest offices of the court, and he was 
placed in constant attendance on his sovereign. These 
favours awakened the jealousy of Bardas, who su^>ected the 
Macedonian groom of the power of whispering to Michael 
as well as to horses. At the same time it secured Basil 
the support of all the Caesar's enemies, who considered a 
drunken groom, even though he had risen to great power at 
court, as a person not likely to be their rival in ministerial 

Basil, however, soon received a very high mark of Michael s 
personal favour. He was ordered to divorce his wife and 
marry Eudocia Ingerina, who had long been the emperor's 
mistress ; and it was said that the intercourse continued after 
she became the wife of the chamberlain ^. Every ambitious 
and debauched officer about the court now looked to the fall 

* Basil rendered an ungovernable horse belonging to the euperor as tamt ms 
a ikMpt by stretching out his hand to its ear. Leo (kamm. 458. 

* The chronicles of Michael's reign accuse the emperor of encouraging a 
criminal intercourse between Basil and Thekla his elder sister, apparently as 
a recompense for his own intimacy with Eudocia Ingerina after soe beoune 
Basil's wife. Symeon Mag. 446; Georg. Mon. 536; Leo Gramm. 464. As 
E further illustration of the conduct of these ladies, see Leo Gramm. 471,472; 
Geocg. Mon. 545. 

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AJ). 842-867.] 

of Bardas as the readiest means of promotion. Symbatios an 
Armenian, a patrician and postmaster of the empire, who was 
the son-in-law of Bardas, dissatisfied with his father-in-law 
for refusing to gratify his inordinate ambition, joined Basil 
in accusing the Caesar of plotting to mount the throne. 
The emperor, without much hesitation, authorized the two 
intriguers to assassinate his uncle. 

An expedition for reconquering Crete from the Saracens 
was about to sail. The emperor, the Caesar, and Basil all 
partook of the holy sacrament together before embarking in 
the fleet, which then proceeded along the coast of Asia Minor 
to Kepos in the Thrakesian theme ^ Here the army remained 
encamped, under the pretext that a sufficient number of 
transports had not been assembled. Bardas expressed great 
dissatisfaction at this delay ; and one day, while he was urging 
Michael to give orders for the immediate embarkation of the 
troops, he was suddenly attacked by Symbatios and Basil, 
and murdered at the emperor's feet. Basil, who, as chamber- 
lain, had conducted him to the imperial tent, stabbed him in 
the back. 

The accomplished but unprincipled Bardas being removed, 
the project of invading Crete was abandoned, and Michael 
returned to the capital. On entering Constantinople, however, 
it was evident that the assassination of his uncle had given 
universal dissatisfaction. Bardas, with all his faults, was the 
best of Michael's ministers, and the failure of the expedition 
against Crete was attributed to his death. As Michael passed 
through the streets, a monk greeted him with this bitter 
salutation : — * All hail, emperor I all hail from your glorious 
campaign! You return covered with blood, and it is your 
own I ' The imperial guards attempted in vain to arrest the 
fanatic ; the people protected him, declaring he was mad. 

The assassination of Bardas took place in the spring of 
866; and on the 26th of May, Michael rewarded Basil by 
proclaiming him his colleague, with the title of Emperor 2. 
Symbatios expected that his participation in his father-in- 
law's murder would have secured him the title of Caesar; 
but he soon perceived he had injured his own fortunes by 
his crime. He now sought to obtain by open force what 

* Probably near Halicarnassus or Cnidus. • Contia. 129, 

VOL. 11. O 

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he had failed to gain by private murder. He succeeded in 
drawing Peganes, who commanded the troops in the Opsikian 
theme, into his conspiracy. The two rebels took up arms, 
and proclaimed that their object was not to dethrone Michael, 
but to depose Basil. Though they drew together a consider- 
able body of troops, rendered themselves masters of a great 
extent of country, and captured many merchant-ships on their 
passage to Constantinople, they did not venture to attack the 
capital. Their plan was ill concerted, for before the end of 
the summer they had allowed themselves to be completely 
surrounded by the imperial troops. Peganes was taken 
prisoner at Kotiaeion, and conducted to Constantinople, 
where his eyes were put out. He was then placed in the 
Milion, with a platter in his hand, to ask charity from the 
passers-by. Symbatios was subsequently captured at Kel- 
tizene. When he reached Constantinople, he was conducted 
before Michael. Peganes was brought out to meet him, with 
a censer of earthenware filled with burning sulphur instead of 
incense. Symbatios was then deprived of one of his eyes, 
and his right hand was cut off. In this condition he was 
placed before the palace of Lausus, with a dish on his 
knees, as a common beggar. After exhibiting his rebellious 
officers in this position for three days, Michael allowed them 
to be imprisoned in their own houses. When Basil mounted 
the throne, they were pardoned as men no longer dangerous. 

The d^rading punishment to which two men of the highest 
rank in the empire were subjected, made a deep impression 
on the people of Constantinople. The figure of Peganes — a 
soldier of high reputation — ^standing in the Milion, askii^ 
for an obolos, with a platter in his hand like a blind b^;gar, 
haunted their imagination, and, finding its way into the 
romances of the age, was borrowed to illustrate the greatest 
vicissitudes of court favour, and give colouring to the strongest 
pictures of the ingratitude of emperors. The fate of Planes 
and Symbatios, woven into a tale called the Life of Belisarius, 
in which the interest of tragic sentiment was heightened by 
much historical and local truth, has gained immortality in 
European literature, and confounded the critical sagacity of 
eminent modern writers ^. 

* Compare Constant. Porph3rr. {Vila Basilii, in Script, post Theoph, 150, 163) 

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One of the few acts which are recorded of the joint reign 
of Michael and Basil was the desecration of the tomb of 
Constantine V. (Copronymus). This base act was perpetrated 
to flatter a powerful party in the church, of which the leading 
members were hostile to Bardas, on account of his persecution 
of Ignatius. The precarious position of Photius after the 
murder of his patron, and the inherent subserviency of the 
Greek ecclesiastical dignitaries, made him ready to counten- 
ance any display of orthodoxy, however bigoted, that pleased 
the populace. The memory of Constantine V. was still 
cherished by no inconsiderable number of Iconoclasts. 
Common report still boasted of the wealth and power to 
which the empire had attained under the just administration 
of the Iconoclast emperors, and their conduct served as a 
constant reproach to Michael. The people, however, were 
easily persuaded that the great exploits of Constantine V., 
and the apparent prosperity of his reig^, had been the work 
of the devil. The sarcophagus in which the body of this 
great emperor reposed was of green marble, and of the 
richest workmanship. By the order of the drunken Michael 
and the Sclavonian gfroom Basil it was broken open, and 
the body, after having lain for upwards of ninety years in 
peace, was dragged into the circus, where the body of John 
the Grammarian, torn also from the tomb, was placed beside 
It. The remains of these great men were beaten with rods to 
amuse the vilest populace, and then burned in the Amas- 
trianon — ^the filthiest quarter of the capital, and the place 
often used for the execution of malefactors ^. The splendid 
sarcophagus of Constantine was cut in pieces by order of 

with Symeon Mag. (449)t Georg. Mon. (540), and Leo Gramm. (467) ; and for the 
resemblance with the fable of Belisarius, the anon3rmous author of AntiquitUs of 
Constantino^^ in Banduri, Imperium Orienialt (i. 7), and Jbannis Tzetzae Hist, 
Var, Chitiades (94, edit. Kiessling.) ; also Lord Mahon, Life of Belisarius^ who 
tries to support the fable; and ' Belisarius ~was he blind?' in Blackwood's 
Magazmi for May 1847, where the^ connection of the fable with history is 
pomted out. It may be worth mentioning, moreoyer, that Zacharia {Historian 
Juris Graeeo-Romani Delineation 58) and Mbrtreuil (Histoire du Droit Byzantin^ 
ii. 499) have both fallen into an error in supposing this Symbatios, who had 
lost an eye and his right hand during the reign of Michael III., to be the same 
person as the Symbatios or Sabbatios who assisted Leo VI. in the revision of 

* Georg. Mon. 540; Leo Gramm. 467. The anonymous author of the Ant, 
Constant. (Banduri, Imp. Orient, ao) says that the Amastrianon was a favourite 
resort of demons. See the notes to torn. ii. 558. 


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Michael, to form a balustrade in a new chapel he was con- 
structing at Pharos. 

The drunkenness of Michael brought on delirium tremens, 
and rendered him liable to fits of madness. He observed that 
Basil's desire to maintain the high position he had reached 
produced the same reformation in his conduct which had been 
visible in that of Bardas. The Emperor Basil became a very 
different man from Basil the chamberlain. The change ren- 
dered Michael dissatisfied with his colleague, and in one of 
his fits of madness he invested another of the companions of 
his orgies, named Basiiiskian, with the imperial title. 

In such a court there could be little doubt that the three 
emperors, Michael, Basil, and Basiiiskian, could not long hold 
joint sway. It was probably a race who should first be the 
murderer of his colleagues, and in such cases the ablest man is 
generally the most successful criminal Basil, having reason 
to fear for his own safety, planned the assassination of his 
benefactor with great deliberation. The murder was carried 
into execution after a supper party given by Theodora to her 
son in the palace of Anthimos, after he had spent a day 
hunting on the Asiatic coast. Basil and his wife, Eudoda 
Ingerina, were invited by the empress-mother to meet her 
son, for all decency was banished from tiiis most orthodox 
court. Michael, according to his usual habit, was carried from 
the supper table in a state of intoxication, and Basil accom- 
panied his colleague to his chamber, of which he had previously 
rendered the lock useless. Basiiiskian, the third of this in- 
famous trio, was sleeping, in a state of intoxication, on the 
bed placed in the imperial apartment for the chamberlain on 
duty. The chamberlain, on following his master, found the 
lock of the door useless and the bolts broken, but did not 
think of calling for assistance to secure the entrance in the 
palace of the empress-mother. 

Basil soon returned, attended by John of Chaldia, a Persian 
officer named Apelates, a Bulgarian named Peter, Constantine 
Toxaras, his own father Bardas, his brother Marinos, and his 
cousin Ayleon. The chamberlain immediately guessed their 
purpose, and opposed their entry into the chamber. Michael, 
disturbed by the noise, rose from his drunken sleep, and was 
attacked by John of Chaldia, who cut off both his hands 
with a blow of his sabre. The emperor fell on the ground. 

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AJ). 842-867.] 

Basiliskian was slain in the mean time by Apelates. Con- 
stantine Toxaras, with the relatives of Basil, guarded the 
door and the corridor leading to the apartment, lest the 
officers of the emperor or the servants of Theodora should 
be alarmed by the noise. The shouts of the chamberlain and 
the cries of Michael alarmed Basil and those in the chamber, 
and they rushed into the corridor to secure their retreat. But 
the tumult of debauchery had been often as loud, and the 
cries of murder produced no extraordinary sensation where 
Michael was present. All remaining silent without, some of 
the conspirators expressed alarm lest Michael should not be 
mortally wounded. John of Chaldia, the boldest of the 
assassins, returned to make his work sure. Finding the 
emperor sitting on the floor uttering bitter lamentations, he 
plunged his sword into his heart, and then returned to assure 
Basil that all was finished. 

The conspirators crossed over to Constantinople, and having 
secured their entrance into the imperial palace by means of 
two Persians, Eulogios and Artabasd, who- were on guard, 
Basil was immediately proclaimed sole emperor, and the 
death of Michael III. was publicly announced. In the morn- 
ing the body of Michael was interred in a monastery at 
Chrysopolis, near the palace of Anthimos. Theodora was 
allowed to direct the funeral ceremonies of the son whom her 
own neglect had conducted to an early and Tbloody death. 

The people of Constantinople appear to have taken very 
little interest in this infamous assassination, by which a small 
band of mercenary adventurers transferred the empire of the 
Romans from the Amorian dynasty to a Macedonian groom, 
whose family reigned at Constantinople for two centuries, 
with greater power and glory than the Eastern emperors had 
attained since the days of Justinian. 

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State of the Byzantine Empire during the 
Iconoclast Period, 

Sect, L — PuMic Admifdstraiwn^Dipiomatk and Comfmrdal 


Const.inthiople neither a Greek nor a Roman cily,^ — The Greek race not the 
dommjiJit people in the cmpiirc-CirciimStaac^rs which modified de^polic 
power*— Extent of the empire*— Militiiry slrength.^ — Loss of Italy, Sicily, 
and Crete,— Embassy of John the Grammarian to Bagdad^ — Conuserdal 
policy,— Wealtli. 

In anctent times, when the civilization of the Greek people 
had attained its highest degree of moral culture, the Hellenic 
race was assailed almost simultaneously by the Persians, 
Carthaginiansj and Tyrrhenians, The victories obtained over 
these enemies are still regarded as the triumphs on which the 
political civilization of Europe, and of the great dwelling-place 
of liberty beyond the Atlantic, is based ^ The age of Leo 
the Isaurian found the government of the Byzantine empire in 
a position not v^ery dissimilar from that of the Greek race in 
the time of Miltiades. The Athenian people fought for poli- 
tical progress on the plain of Marathon. Leo battled for law 
and administration behind the walls of Constantinople; the 
victory of Miltiades secured only one hundred and Mty years 
of liberty to the Greeks, that of the Iconoclast gave nearly 
five centuries of despotic power to a system hostile to the 
development of the human intellect. The voice of fame has 
conferred immortal gloiy on the doubtful virtues of the 
Athenian general, and treated with neglect the profound 

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statesmanship of the stem Isaurian sovereign; and it has 
done so not unjustly, for the gratitude of all succeeding ages 
is due to those who extend the political ideas of mankind, 
whereas those who only preserve property must be satisfied 
with the applause of the proprietors. Nevertheless the Icono- 
clast period of Byzantine history presents a valuable study 
to the historian, both in what it did and what it left undone — 
in the greatness of the imperial administration, and the little- 
ness of the people who were its subjects. 

The Byzantine empire passed through a more dangerous 
ordeal than classic Greece, inasmuch as patriotism is a surer 
national bulwark than mechanical administration. The 
struggle for the preservation of Constantinople from the 
Saracens awakens no generous feelings and noble aspirations ; 
it only teaches those who examine history as political phi- 
losophers, what social and administrative tendencies a free 
people ought carefully to avoid. On this subject the scanty 
annals of the Greek people, as slaves of the Byzantine em- 
perors, though far from an attractive chapter in history, are 
filled with much premonitory instruction for nations in an 
advanced social condition. 

Neither the Emperors of Constantinople, though they styled 
themselves Emperors of the Romans, nor their subjects, though 
calling themselves Roman citizens, sought at this period 'to 
identify themselves with the reminiscences of the earlier Roman 
Empire. The Romans of Italy and the Greeks of Hellas had 
both fallen very low in public opinion ^. Constantinople, as a 
Christian capital, claimed to be the mistress of a new world, 
and the emperors of the East considered themselves masters 
of all the territories of Rome, because the dominion over all 
Christians was a right inherent in the emperor of the orthodox. 
But Constantinople was founded as an antagonist to old Rome, 
and this antagonism has always been a portion of its exist- 
ence. As a Christian city, its church and its ecclesiastical 
language always stood in opposition to the church and eccle- 
siastical language of Rome. The thoughts of the one were 

* See Pausanias (Achaica^ xvii. a) for the character the Greeks bore in the time 
of Vespasian ; and the passage of Luitprand (in Muratori, Script. Rer. leal. ii. 
aus 1. 481) for that of^the Romans. Gibbon says, *For the sins of Cato or 
Tally. Minos might have imposed as a fit penance the daily perusal of this 
barbarous passage;' ch. :dix, noit 44 ; vol. vi. p. 151, Smith's edit. 


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[Bk.LCh.IV. §1. 

never transferred in their pure conception to the mind of the 
other. For several centuries Latin was the language of the 
court, of the civil government, and of the higher ranks at 
Constantinople. In the time of Leo IIL, and during the 
Byzantine Empire, Greek was the language of the adminis- 
tration and the people, as well as of the church ; but we are 
not to suppose, from that circumstance, that the inhabitants 
of the city considered themselves as Greeks by descent. 
Even by the populace the term would have been looked 
upon as one of reproach, applicable as a national appellation 
only to the lower orders of society in the Hellenic themes. 
The people of Constantinople and of the Byzantine empire at 
large, in their civil capacity, were Romans, and in their 
religious, orthodox Christians ; in no social relation, whether 
of race or nationality, did they consider themselves Greeks. 

At the succession of Leo III., the Hellenic race occupied 
a very subordinate position in the empire. The predominant 
influence in the political administration was in the hands of 
Asiatics, and particularly of Armenians, who filled the highest 
military commands. The family of Leo the Isaurian was said 
to be of Armenian descent ; Nicephorus I. was descended from 
an Arabian family ; Leo V. was an Armenian ; Michael II., the 
founder of the Amorian dynasty, was of a Phrygian stock. 
So that, for a century and a half, the Empress Irene appears 
to be the only sovereign of pure Greek blood who occupied 
the imperial throne, though it is probable that Michael 
Rhangab6 was an Asiatic Greek. Of the numerous rebels 
who assumed the title of Emperor, the greater part were 
Armenians^. Indeed, Kosmas, who was elected by the Greeks 
when they attacked Constantinople in the year 727, was the 
only rebel of the Greek nation who attempted to occupy the 
throne for a century and a half. Artabasdos, who rebelled 
against his brother-in-law Constantine V., was an Armenian. 
Alexios Mousel, strangled by order of Constantine VI. in the 
year 790 ; Bardan, called the Turk, who rebelled against 
Nicephorus I.; Arsaber, the father-in-law of Leo V., convicted 
of treason in 808 ; and Thomas, who revolted against Michael 

* See the conjectures of Saint-Martin on the Armenian origin of these officers, 
in his edition of Le Beau, Hisioire du Bat-Empiret xii. 355, note 3 ; ^04, noU 3 ; 
431, ttot€ 2 ; also Chamich, History qf Armeniaf translated by J. Avdall, Calcutta, 
1827; i. 395. 399. 

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AJ). 716-867.] 

11^ were all Asiatics, and most of them Armenians. Another 
Alexios Mousel, who married Maria, the favourite daughter 
of Theophilus; Theophobos, the brother-in-law of the same 
emperor ; and Manuel, who became a member of the council 
of r^ency at his death, were likewise of foreign Asiatic 
descent. Many of the Armenians in the Byzantine empire 
belonged to the oldest and most illustrious families of the 
Christian world, and their connection with the remains of 
Roman society at Constantinople, in which the pride of birth 
was cherished, is a proof that Asiatic influence had eclipsed 
Roman and Greek in the government of the empire. Before 
this happened, the Roman aristocracy transplanted to Con- 
stantinople must have become nearly extinct. New names 
make their first appearance under the Iconoclasts ; and the 
earliest are those of Doukas, Skleros, and Melissenos^ The 
order introduced into society by the political and ecclesiastical 
reforms of Leo III., gave a permanence to high birth and 
great wealth, which constituted henceforth a claim to high 
office. A degree of certainty attended the transmission of 
all social advantages which never before existed in the Roman 
empire. This change would alone establish the fact that the 
reforms of Leo III. had rendered life and property more 
secure, and consequently circumscribed the arbitrary power 
of preceding emperors by stricter forms of administrative and 
l^al procedure. An amusing instance of the influence of 
aristocratic and Asiatic prejudices at Constantinople will 
appear in the eagerness displayed by Basil I., a Sclavonian 
groom from Macedonia, to claim descent from the Armenian 
royal family. The defence of this absurd pretension is given 
by his grandson, Constantine VII. (Porphyrogenitus)^ 

It is difficult to draw an exact picture of the Byzantine 
government at this period, for facts^can easily be collected, 
which, if viewed in perfect isolation, would, according to our 
modern ideas, warrant the conclusion, either that it was a 
tyrannical despotism, or a mild legal monarchy. The personal 
exercise of power by the emperor, in punishing his officers 
with death and stripes, without trial, and his constant inter- 
ference with the administration of justice, contrast strongly 

* Aucloris incerti Historia, at the end of Theophanes, 438 ; Contin. 14. 
' Constant. Forphyr. Basilius, 133. 


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[Bk.I.Ch.IV. §1. 

with the boldness displayed by the monks and clergy in op- 
posing his power. In order to form a correct estimate of the 
real position occupied by the Byzantine empire in the pro- 
gressive improvement of the human race, it is necessary to 
compare it, on the one hand, with the degraded Roman empire 
which it replaced ; and on the other, with the arbitrary govern- 
ment of the Mohammedans, and the barbarous administration 
of the northern nations, which it resisted. The regularity of 
its civil, financial, and judicial administration, the defensive 
power of its military and naval establishments, are remarkable 
in an age of temporary measures and universal aggression. 
The state of education, and the moral position of the clergy, 
offer favourable points of comparison with the brilliant em- 
pires of Haroun Al Rashid and Charlemagne. On the other 
hand, fiscal rapacity was the incurable canker of the Byzan- 
tine, as it had been of the Roman government From it arose 
all those measures which reduced society to a stationary con- 
dition. No class of men was invested with a constitutional or 
legal authority to act as defenders of the people's rights 
against the fiscality of the imperial administration. Insurrec- 
tion, rebellion, and revolution were the only means of obtain- 
ing either reform or justice, when the interests of the treasury 
were concerned. Yet even in this branch of its administration 
no other absolute government ever displayed equal prudence 
and honesty. Respect for the law was regarded by the 
emperors as self-respect; and the power possessed by the 
clergy, who in some degree participated in popular feelings, 
contributed to temper and restrain the exercise of arbitrary 

Yet the Byzantine empire, however superior it might be to 
contemporary governments, presents points of resemblance, 
which prove that the social condition of its population was in 
no inconsiderable degree affected by some general causes 
operating on the condition of human civilization in the East 
and the West. The seventh century was a period of disorgan- 
ization in the Eastern Empire, and of anarchy in all the 
kingdoms formed out of the provinces of the Western. Even 
throughout the dominions of the Saracens, in spite of the 
power and energy of the central administration of the caliphs, 
the nations under their rule were in a declining state. 

The first step towards the constitution of modem society 

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A.D. 716-867.] 

was made at Constantinople about the commencement of the 
eighth century. The reign of Leo III. opens a new social era 
for mankind, as well as for the Eastern Empire. Much of 
this amelioration may be traced to the infusion of new vigour 
into society from popular feelings, of which it is difficult to 
trace the causes or the development. The Byzantine empire, 
though it regained something of the old Roman vigour at the 
centre of its power, was unable to prevent the loss of several 
provinces ; and Basil I. governed an empire of smaller extent 
than Leo III. reconstituted, though one that was far richer 
and more powerful. The exarchate of Ravenna, Rome, Crete, 
and Sicily had passed under the dominion of hostile states. 
Venice had become completely independent. On the other 
hand, it must be remembered, that in 717 the Saracens occu- 
pied great part of Asia Minor, and that they had been almost 
entirely expelled from it before 867. The only conquest of 
which the emperors of Constantinople could boast was the 
complete subjugation of the allied city of Cherson to the 
central administration, Cherson had previously enjoyed a 
d^ree of political independence which had for centuries 
secured its commercial prosperity. Its local freedom was de- 
stroyed by Theophilus, who sent his brother-in-law Petronas 
to occupy it with an army, and govern it as an imperial pro- 
vince. The power of the empire was, however, only momen- 
tarily increased by the destruction of the liberties of Cherson ; 
the city declined rapidly from the degree of wealth and energy 
which had enabled it to afford military aid to Constantine the 
Great, and to resist the tyranny of Justinian II., and lost much 
of its commercial importance. 

Historians generally speak of the Byzantine empire at this 
period as if it had been destitute of military power. Events 
as far removed from one another, in point of tihie, as our own 
misfortunes in India at the Black Hole of Calcutta and the 
massacre of Cabul, are cited to prove that the Byzantine 
government was incapable, and the Byzantine army feeble 
and unwarlike. The truth is this, the Byzantine empire was 
a highly civilized society, and consequently its tendencies 
were essentially defensive when those of the rest of the world 
were aggressive. The Saracens, Franks, and Bulgarians were 
nations devoted to war, and yet the Byzantine empire effectu- 
ally resisted and long outlived these empires of warriors. No 

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[Bk.I. Ch.IV. 5i. 

contemporary government possessed a permanent military 
establishment so perfectly organized as the emperor of Con- 
stantinople, nor could any bring into the field, on a sudden 
exigency, a better appointed army. The caliphs had the 
power of deluging the frontier provinces with large bodies of 
light troops which could not be prevented from plundering 
the country, for the imperial armies were compelled to act on 
the defensive, and defensive warfare can rarely protect all the 
assailable points of an extensive frontier. Whole provinces 
were therefore often laid waste and depopulated ; yet, under 
the Iconoclast emperors, the Byzantine territories increased in 
prosperity. The united attacks of the Saracens, Bulgarians, 
and Franks inflicted trifling evils on the Byzantine empire, 
compared with what the predatory incursions of small bands 
of Normans inflicted on the empire of the successors of Char- 
lemagne, or the incessant rebellions and civil wars on the 
dominions of the caliphs. 

The Saracens devoted the immense wealth of their empire 
to their military establishment, and they were certainly more 
formidable enemies to the Byzantine emperors than the 
Parthians had been to the Romans ; yet the emperors of Con- 
stantinople successfully resisted these powerful enemies. The 
Saracen troops were no way inferior to the Byzantine in arms, 
discipline, artillery, and military science ; their cavalry was 
mailed from head to foot, each horseman bearing a lance, a 
scimitar, and a bow slung over his shoulder. Their discipline 
was of the strictest kind, and their armies moved not only 
with catapultas and military engines for field service, but also 
with all the materials and machines requisite for besieging 
cities. Under Kassim a band of six thousand men ventured 
to invade India ^ ; yet the caliphs never thought of encounter- 
ing the Byzantine army unless with immense numbers of their 
chosen warriors ; and they sustained more signal defeats from 
the emperors of Constantinople than from all the other ene- 
mies they encountered together. The bloody contests and 
hard-fought battles with the armies of the caliphs in Asia 
Minor, entitle the Byzantine army to rank for several centuries 
as one of the best the world has ever seen. 

The Bulgarians were likewise dangerous enemies. Their 

^ Elphinstone's History of tht Mohammedans in India, i. 51a. 

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AJ). 716-867.] 

continual wars gave them no mean knowledge of military- 
science ; and the individual soldiers, from their habits of life, 
possessed great activity and powers of endurance. In the 
wars at the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth 
centuries they fought completely armed in steel, and pos- 
sessed military engines of every kind then known. We have 
the testimony of a Byzantine writer, that the armies of Crumn 
were supplied with every warlike machine discovered by the 
engineering knowledge of the Romans ^ 

In all the scientific departments of war, in the application 
of mechanical and chemical skill to the art of destruction, and 
in the construction of engines for the attack and defence of 
fortresses, there can be no doubt that the Byzantine engineers 
were no way inferior to the Roman ; for in the arsenals of 
Constantinople, the workmen and the troops had been un- 
interruptedly employed from generation to generation in 
executing and infproving the same works. One important 
invention changed, in some degree, the art of defence on 
shore, and of attack at sea : this was the discovery of Greek 
fire, and the method of launching it to a certain distance from 
brazen tubes. The Byzantine forces both by land and sea 
were indebted for many victories to the skill with which they 
applied this invention to aid their tactics. 

Th^ aristocracy of the Byzantine empire, though not exclu- 
sively devoted to war, like the nobility of other contemporary 
nations, was still deeply imbued with the military spirit. No 
state can boast of a greater number of warlike sovereigns 
than the Byzantine empire, from the accession of Leo III. to 
the death of Michael III. During this period of a century and 
a half, not one of the emperors failed to appear at the head 
of the army; and Leo III., Constantine V., Leo V., Michael II., 
and Theophilus, were experienced generals ; the careless 
Constantine VI. and the debauched Michael III. appeared 
to greater advantage in the camp than in the capital ; and it 
was only the weak, religious persecutor, Michael Rhangab^, 
who was absolutely contemptible as a soldier. 

Amidst this military energy, nothing seems more remarkable 
than the indifference with which the loss of central Italy, and 

* The army of Crumn consisted of 30,000 bXoalhjpoi, Aud. ineert. Hist., at the 
end of Theophanes, 434 ; where notice the list of military engines. 

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the islands of Crete and Sicily, was viewed by the Byzantine 
government ^. It would seem that the value of these distant 
provinces was estimated at Constantinople solely by the 
amount of revenue they produced to the imperial treasury^ 
and that when the expenses of a province absorbed all its 
revenues, or its reconquest was found to entail a d^ree 
of outlay that was never likely to be repaid, the emperors 
were often indifferent to the loss. 

The foundation of the Frank empire by Charles Martel 
very nearly corresponds with the organization of the Byzantine 
by Leo III. The invasion of Italy by Pepin, A. D. 754, and the 
temporal authority conceded to the popes, compelled the 
Byzantine emperors to enter into negotiations with Charle- 
magne on a footing of equality. The importance of maintain- 
ing friendly relations with Constantinople is said by Eginhard 
to have influenced Charlemagne in affecting to receive the 
imperial crown from the Pope by surprise ; he wished to be 
able to plead that his election as emperor of the West was 
unsought on his part. Interest silenced pride on both sides, 
and diplomatic relations were established between the two 
emperors of the East and the West,; embassies and presents 
were sent from Constantinople to Charlemagne and his 
successors, treaties were concluded, and the Byzantine 
government became in some degi'ee connected with the inter- 
national system of mediaeval Europe ^. The superiority still 

* The exarchate extended from the Po to Fermo, and included all the conntiy 
between the Adriatic and the Apennines. The Pentapolis, now the Marca 
d^Ancona, comprised the country from Rimini to Fermo. The dudiy of Rome 
embraced the patrimony of St. Peter and the Campagna. 

' Michael II. sent a copy of the works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite 
to Louis le D^bonnaire, as a valuable present, in 824. The regency of Theodoia 
attached considerable importance to the embassies sent to Lothaire and Louis II. 
Schlosser, 566. [It is important that we should understand the position of the 
West relatively to the East in respect of the establishment of the empire under 
Cbarles the Great. There was no idea on the part of the Westerns at that time 
of revivinc; the empire of the West; when that came to an end in a.d. 476, it 
was considered to be merged in the Eastern Empire, so that from that time there 
was, as there had been before Diocletian, a single undivided Roman Empire. 
The object of Charles was to get himself recognized as in some sense the stio> 
cessor of the Eastern emperors, and with this view he went so fiu-. if we are 
to trust Theophanes (401), as to seek the hand of Irene in marriage. When 
these negotiations foiled, the Westerns, in order to remedy the evident flaw in 
their title, and give their act a semblance of legality, professed that they were 
not revolting against a reigning sovereign, but legitimately filling up the place 
of the deposed Constantine VL * Charles was held to be the legitimate successor, 
not of Romulus Aufi;ustulus, but of Heraclius, Justinian, Arcadius, and the whole 
Eastern line ; and hence it is that in all the annals of the time and of many 

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AJ>. 716-867.] 

held by the court of Constantinople in public opinion is 
manifest in the Greek salutations with which the Pope 
flattered Charlemagne at the commencement of his letters ; 
yet Greek official salutations had only lately supplanted 
Latin at Constantinople itself ^ 

The political alliances and diplomatic relations of the 
Byzantine court were very extensive ; but the most impor- 
tant were those with the Khan of the Khazars, who ruled all 
the northern shores of the Caspian Sea, and with the Ommiad 
caliphs of Spain. Scandinavian ambassadors who had passed 
through Russia visited the splendid court of Theophilus ; but 
their mission related rather to mercantile questions, or to the 
manner of furnishing recruits to the mercenary legions at 
Constantinople, than to political alliance \ 

The remarkable embassy of John the Grammarian, who 
was sent by Theophilus as ambassador to the Caliph Motas- 
sem, deserves particular notice, as illustrating the external 
character of Byzantine diplomacy ^ The avowed object of 
the mission was to conclude a treaty of peace, but the 
ambassador had secret instructions to employ every art of 
persuasion to induce Manuel, one of the ablest generals of the 
empire, who had distinguished himself greatly in the civil 
wars of the Saracens, to return to his allegiance. The 
personal qualities of John rendered him peculiarly well suited 
for this embassy. To great literary attainments he joined a 
d^^ee of scientific knowledge, which gained him the reputa- 
tion of a magician, and he was perfectly acquainted with the 
Arabic language*. All these circumstances insured him a 

succeeding centuries, the name of Constantine VI., the sixty-seventh in order from 
Augustas, is followed without a break by that of Charles, the sixty-eighth.* 
Bryce's Holy Roman Empire^ 4th edit. pp. 60-63. Finlay's statements on this 
subject, therefore, on p. 78, require to be somewhat modified. Ed.] 

* Constant Porphyr. De Caeremon. Aulae Byzantinae, ii. 39. 
' Schlosser, Oeschiehte der bildenlurmendin Kaiser, 483. 

» There is some difficulty in fixing the precise date of this embassy. Weil (ii. 297) 
with great probability places it at the end of 833. Compare Contin. 60 ; Symeon 
Mag. 419 ; Genesius, 39 ; Leo Gramm. 453 ; also note 3 at p. 149 of this volume. 

• The people of Constantinople regarded Leo, the archbishop of Thessalonica, 
as a necromancer or magician, as well as John, on account of the great mechanical 
works executed under his direction. This need not appear surprising, when we 
recollect that English tradition ascribes feats of magic to a hero so modem as 
Sir Francis Drake, for executing the aqueduct that supplies Plymouth with water. 
It was completed with wondeHul celerity, and hence the people relate that Sir 
Francis made a contract with the devil, in virtue of which the water flowed after 
bis horse's feet as he galloped from the spring to the town. Roger Bacon, on 
account of his rare knowledge as a natural philosopher, and Faustus as the first 
printer, were both supposed to have unlawful dealings with the other world. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.rsr. §1. 

good reception at the court of Bagdad, which had been so 
lately and so long governed by the Caliph Almamun, one of 
the greatest encouragers of science and literature who ever 
occupied a throne. The Byzantine ambassador was equally 
celebrated for his knowledge of medicine, architecture, 
mechanics, mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, and astrology; 
and probably even the Caliph Motassem, though a free- 
thinker and a disbeliever in the divine origin of the Koran, 
shared so much of the popular belief as to credit the tale that 
the learned Christian priest could read the secrets of futurity 
in a brazen basin, and felt great curiosity to converse with a 
man who possessed this rare gift ^ 

On quitting Constantinople, John was furnished with the 
richest furniture, splendid carpets, damasked silk hangings, 
and plate chased and inlaid with the most beautiful ornaments 
from the imperial palaces, to which was added 400 lb. of gold 
for the current expenses of the embassy. 

According to the usage of the East, the ambassador was 
lodged at Bagdad in a palace furnished by the caliph. The 
magnificent style in which the diplomatic priest installed 
himself in the apartments he reserved for his own use made a 
sensation at the court of Motassem, though many then living 
had witnessed the splendour of Haroun Al Rashid. This 
lavish display of wealth was better adapted to gratify the 
vanity of Theophilus than to advance the conclusion of a 
lasting peace. If we could place implicit confidence in the 
stories recorded by the Byzantine writers, of various tricks to 
which the ambassador resorted in order to augment the 
wonder of the Saracen nobles at the enormous wealth of the 
Christians, we should be inclined to question the judgment of 
John himself. His conduct could only have originated in 
personal pride ; and the course attributed to him would have 
been more likely to excite the Mohammedans to active 
warfare, where they had a prospect of plundering so rich an 
enemy, than of persuading them to conclude a treaty of 

One anecdote, dwelt on with peculiar satisfaction, deserves to 
be recorded. John possessed a splendid golden basin and ewer. 


' When we call to mind the animal magnetism and table-turning of our own 
day, we need not be surprised at the brazen magnetism of another age. 

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AJ). 716-867.] 

richly chased and ornamented with jewels, and of this he 
made a great display. Throughout the East, and in 
many parts of European Turkey at the present day, where 
knives and forks are not yet in use, it is the practice to wash 
the hands immediately before commencing a meal, and on 
rising from the table. A servant pours water from a ewer 
over the hands of the guest, while another holds a basin to 
receive it as it falls. This, being done by each guest in turn, 
would leave ample time for observing the magnificent golden 
utensils of John at the entertainments he was in the habit of 
giving to the leading men in Bagdad. At a grand entertain- 
ment given by the Byzantine ambassador to the principal 
nobility of the caliph's court, the slaves rushed into the 
hall where the guests were assembled, and infoi*med John, in 
a state of great alarm, that his magnificent golden basin was 
not to be found. The Saracens eagerly suggested measures 
for its recovery; but John treated the affair with indifference, 
and calmly ordered his steward to give the slaves another. 
Soon two slaves appeared, one bearing in his hand a golden 
ewer, and the other a basin, larger and more valuable, if not 
more elegant, than that which it was supposed had been 
stolen. These had been hitherto kept concealed, on purpose 
to attract public attention by this pitiful trick. 

John, however, gained the respect of the Saracens by his 
disinterested conduct, for he declined to receive any present 
of value for himself, even from the caliph. Motassem, 
therefore, presented him with a hundred Christian captives ; 
but even then he sent immediately to Theophilus, to beg 
him to return a like number of Saracen prisoners to the 
caliph. No general exchange of prisoners, however, appears 
to have been effected at the time of this embassy, which, 
with other circumstances, affords a proof that the avowed 
object of the embassy totally failed. When John returned 
to Constantinople, he persuaded the Emperor Theophilus 
to construct the palace of Bryas in the varied style of 
Saracenic architecture, of which those who have seen the 
interior of the palaces at Damascus, the work of Owen Jones 
on the Alhambra, or the Alhambra court at the crystal palace 
of Sydenham, with its gorgeous ornaments, can alone form an 
adequate idea. 

The great wealth of the Byzantine government at this 


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period was derived from the commercial pre-eminence it 
then enjoyed among the nations of the earth. The com- 
merce of Europe centred at Constantinople in the eighth 
and ninth centuries more completely than it has ever since 
done in any one city ^. The principles of the government, 
which reprobated monopoly, and the moderation of its duties, 
which repudiated privileges, were favourable to the extension 
of trade. While Charlemagne ruined the internal trade of his 
dominions by fixing a maximum of prices, and destroyed 
foreign commerce under the persuasion that, by discouragii^ 
luxury, he could enable his subjects to accumulate treasures 
which he might afterwards extort or filch into his own 
treasury, Theophilus prohibited the persons about his court 
from engaging in mercantile speculations, lest by so doing 
they should injure the r^^lar channels of commercial 
intercourse, by diminishing the profits of the individual 
dealer*. Theophilus proclaimed that commerce was the 
principal source of the wealth of his people, and that as 
many derived their means of subsistence from trade, and 
drew from it alone the funds for payment of the public 
burdens, any interference with the liberty of commerce was 
a public as well as a private injury. The political importance 
of the commercial classes induced Irene, when she usurped 
the empire, to purchase their favour by diminishing the 
duties levied at the passages of the Bosphorus and the 
Hellespont ^. 

During this period the western nations of Europe drew their 
supplies of Indian commodities from Constantinople, and the 
Byzantine empire supplied them with all the gold coin in 
circulation for several centuries. 

The Greek navy, both mercantile and warlike, was the most 

numerous then in existence. Against the merchant-ships of 

, the Greeks, the piratical enterprises of the Egyptian, African, 

and Spanisdi Arabs were principally directed. Unfortunately 

we possess no authentic details of the commercial state of the 

^ The short reign of Theodosius m. was distinguished by the conclusion oT 
a very important commercial treaty with the Bulgarians, which was taken as 
the basis of the fiscal stipulations for a long period. Tlieoph. 421, and notes, 
ibid. 665. 

* Compare the Capitularies of Charlemagne, a.d. 805, art 5, with the conduct 
of Theophilus. Contin. 55. 

f Theoph. 401. 

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AJ). 71(^-867.] 

Byzantine empire, nor of the Greek population during the 
Iconoclast period, yet we may safely transfer to this time 
the records that exist proving the extent of Greek commerce 
under the Basilian dynasty. Indeed, we must remember 
that, as the ignorance and poverty of western Europe was 
much greater in the eleventh and twelfth centuries than in 
the eighth and ninth, we may conclude that Byzantine 
commerce was also greater during the earlier period. 

The influence of the trade of the Arabians with the East 
Indies on the supply of the markets of western Europe has 
been overrated, and that of the Greeks generally lost sight of. 
This is, in some degree, to be attributed to the circumstance 
that the most westerly nations, in the times preceding the 
Crusades, were better acquainted with the commerce and the 
literature of the Arabs of Spain than with those of the 
Byzantine Greeks, and also to the preservation of an inter- 
esting account of the extensive voyages of the Arabs in the 
Indian seas during this very period, when we are deprived 
of all records of Byzantine commerced The Byzantine 
markets drew their supplies of Indian and Chinese productions 
from Central Asia, the trade passing north of the caliph's 
dominions through the territory of the Khazars to the Black 
Sea. This route was long frequented by the Christians, to 
avoid the countries in the possession of the Mohammedans, 
and was the highway of European commerce for several 
centuries. Though it appears at present a far more difficult 
and expensive route than that by the Red Sea and the 
Indian Ocean, it was really safer, more rapid, and more 
economical, in the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries. This 
requires no proof to those who are acquainted with caravan 
life in the East, and who reflect on the imperfections of 
ancient navigation, and the dangers and delays to which 
sailing vessels of any burden are exposed in the Red Sea. 
When the Venetians and Genoese began to surpass the 
Greeks in commercial enterprise, they endeavoured to occupy 
this route ; and we have some account of the line it followed, 
and the manner in which it was carried on, after the East had 
been thrown into confusion by the conquests of the Crusaders 

* See Rilaeion dn Voyag9$ fails par les Arabu tt Perums dans VInde #/ ^ la Chitts 
dans U tuttviims Steele, Traduction et Eclairdssements par Reinaud ; Abulphara* 
gins, Hist. Dyn. 384. 

P % 

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and Tartars, in the travels of Marco Polo. For several 
centuries the numerous cities of the Byzantine empire 
supplied European consumers with Indian wares, and it 
was in them alone that the necessary security of property 
existed to preserve large stores of merchandise. Constanti- 
nople was as much superior to every city in the civilized 
world, in wealth and commerce, as London now is to the 
other European capitals. And it must also be borne in 
mind, that the countries of Central Asia were not then in 
the rude and barbarous condition into which they have 
now sunk, since nomade nations have subdued them. On 
many parts of the road traversed by the caravans, the 
merchants found a numerous and wealthy population ready 
to traffic in many articles sought after both in the East and 
West ; and the single commodity of furs supplied the traders 
with the means of adding greatly to their profits. 

Several circumstances contributed to transfer trade from the 
dominions of the caliphs to Constantinople. The Mohamme- 
dan law, which prohibited all loans at interest, and the 
arbitrary nature of the administration of justice, rendered 
all property, and particularly commercial property, insecure ^ 
Again, the commercial route by the way of Egypt and the 
Red Sea was suddenly rendered both difficult and expensive, 
about the year 767, by the Caliph Al Mansur, who closed 
the canal connecting the Nile with the Red Sea. The 
harvests of Egypt, which had previously filled the coast of 
Arabia with plenty, could no longer be transported in 
quantity to the ports of the Red Sea; living became ex- 
pensive ; the population of Arabia declined ; and the carrying 
trade was ruined by the additional expenditure required 
The caliph by this measure impoverished and depopulated 
the rebellious cities of Medina and Mecca to such a d^^ree 
as to render their military and political power less dangerous 

* The picture presented by the Oriental historians of the oppressive rule of the 
caliphs shows how little security existed under the roost powerful of the Abassides. 
Price has the following passage in the history of Al Mansur, and his testimony is 
confirmed by the recent excellent work of Weil, Gesckiekie der Chtdiftn: 'But 
the sufferings of the inhabitants of Bagdad had reached that point beyond which 
there was no further endurance. A licentious banditti had reestablished its sway 
in that unhappy dty ; the women, the slaves, the property of the inhabitants <if 
every rank and description, had once more become the prey of robbers and 
outlaws, who regarded neither the authority of Mansur nor of any other person.' 
History of th$ Mokammndan Emptrt, ii. 133. 

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AJ). 716-867.] 

to the central authority at Bagdad, but at the same time 
he ruined the commerce of Egypt with India and the eastern 
coast of Southern Africa. Since that period, this most 
important line of communication has never been restored, 
and the coarser articles of food, of which Egypt can produce 
inexhaustible stores, are deprived of their natural market in 
the arid r^ons of Arabia \ The hostile relations between 
the caliphs of Bagdad and Spain likewise induced a consider- 
able portion of the Mohammedan popolation on the shores of 
the Medite*rranean to maintain close commercial re{atioixs.with 
Constantinople ^ 

A remarkable proof of the great wealth of society at this 
period is to be found in the immense amount of specie in 
circulation. We have already noticed that the Byzantine 
empire furnished all the western nations of Europe with gold 
coin for several centuries ; and when the hoards of the 
Mohammedan conquerors of India fell a prey to European 
invaders, it was found that the gold coins of the Byzantine 
emperors formed no small part of their treasures. The sums 
accumulated by Al Mansur and Theophilus were so great, 
that no extortion could have collected them unless the people 
had been wealthy and great activity had existed in the 
commercial transactions of the age. It is true that the 
Caliph Al Mansur was remarkable for his extreme parsimony 
during twelve years of his reign* During this period he is 
said to have accumulated a treasure amounting to six hundred 
millions of dirhems in silver (about ;^ 13, 750,000), and fourteen 
millions of dinars of gold (;^6,4 17,000), or at the rate of 
■;f 1,680,000 a-year^. The Emperor Theophilus, whose lavish 
expenditure in various ways has been recorded, left a large 

' The last mention of this canal by a European author is in Dicuil, who had 
heard a monk named Fidelis relate that he navigated on a branch of the Nile 
from Babylon (old Cairo) to the Red Sea. Dicuili Liher de Mtnsura Orhis Ttrrae^ 
vi. 3. 6, Richerehes Giograph. et Critiquet, par Letronne, 23. 

' Cardonne, Histoirt die VAfrique it <U VEspagnt sous la Domination des ArabeSj 


• The name of Abou Dowaneck (the Father of a Farthing) was given to Al 
Mansur on account of his avarice. Almamun is said to have expended 300,000 
dinars in translating the works of the Greeks (137.500/.). Price, ii. 14a. Weil 
(it 88, notg 2) says that, according to Cod. Goth. (f. ai), Al Mansur left 900,000,000 
dinars and 60,000,000 dirhems; and also that the treasure left by Haroun Al 
Rashid amounted to 900,000,000 dinars, and twice as many dirhems; ii. 127, 
not4 3. It is needless to say that cither there must here be a fault of the copyist 
or gross exaggeration. 

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sum in the imperial treasury at his death, which, when 
increased by the prudent economy of the regency of Theo- 
dora, amounted to one thousand and ninety nine centenaries 
of gold, three thousand centenaries of silver, besides plate and 
gold embroidery, that, on being melted down, yielded two 
hundred centenaries of gold. The gold may be estimated as 
equal to about four millions and a half of sovereigns, and the 
weight of silver as equal to ;£'930,ooo in value, the remainder 
of the treasure to 800,000 sovereigns, making the whole equal 
to a metallic coinage of 5,230,000 sovereigns, and of course 
far exceeding that sum in its exchangeable value, from the 
comparative scarcity of the precious metals and the more 
circumscribed circulation of money. There does not appear 
to be any exaggeration in this account of the sums left in the 
Byzantine treasury at the termination of the r^ency of 
Theodora, for the historians who have transmitted it wrote 
under the government of the Basilian dynasty, and under 
circumstances which afforded access to official sources of 
information. The Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 
their patron, who lived in the third generation after Theo- 
dora, would not have authorized any misrepresentation on such 
a subject ^ 

Some further confirmation of the general wealth of the 
countries on the shores of the Mediterranean, in which com- 
merce was allowed some degree of liberty, is found in the 
wealth of Abderrahman III., in Spain, who is said to have 
possessed an annual revenue of 5,480,000 dinars, though some 
historians have calculated the whole income of his treasury at 
12,945,000, which would be equal to ;^5,5oo,ooo sterling ^ 
The poverty of Europe at a later period, when the isolation 
caused by the feudal system had annihilated commerce and 
prevented the circulation of the precious metals, cannot be 
used as an argument against the probability of this wealth 
having existed at the earlier period of which we are treating'. 

In contrasting the state of commercial society in the Byzan- 
tine and Saracen empires, we must not overlook the existence 

* Contin. 107 ; Symeon Mag. 436. 

• Murphy's Mokamrrudan Empire in Spain, ^03. 

' After the conquests of Henry V. in France, the revenues of the crown of 
England in 1431 amounted only to 53,000/. sterling annually. Michelet, Hiu. d» 
France, iii. 658, edit. Brux. 

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A.D. 716-867.] 

of one social feature favourable to the Mohammedans. The 
higher classes of the Byzantine empire, imbued with the old 
Roman prejudices, looked on trade of every kind as a debasing 
pursuit, unsuitable to those who were called by birth or posi- 
tion to serve the state, while the Saracens still paid an outward 
respect to the antique maxims of Arabian wisdom, which 
inculcated industry as a source of independence even to men 
of the highest rank. In deference to this injunction, the 
Abassid caliphs were in the habit of learning some trade, and 
selling the produce of their manual labour, to be employed in 
purchasing the food they consumed ^ 

Perhaps we may also hazard the conjecture, that a con- 
siderable addition had, shortly before the reign of Theophilus, 
been made to the quantity of precious metals in existence by 
the discovery of new mines. We know, indeed, that the 
Saracens in Spain worked mines of gold and silver to a con- 
siderable extent, and we may therefore infer that they did the 
same in many other portions of their vast dominions. At the 
same time, whatever was done with profit by the Saracens was 
sure to be attempted by the Christians under the Byzantine 
government. The abundance of Byzantine gold coins still in 
existence leads to the conclusion that gold was obtained in 
considerable quantities from mines within the circuit of the 
Eastern Empire. 

Sect. IL — State of Society among the People of the Byzantine 
Empire in the Eighth and Ninth Centuries. 

Decline of civilization. — Influence of the Greek church. — Slavery. — Theologic 
spirit of the people. — State of science and art. — Literature. 

The wealth of nations depends in a great degree on their 
commerce, but the health and strength of a people is derived 
from its agricultural industry. Commerce is cosmopolitan, 
agriculture is national. The population which is pressed into 
large cities by commercial pursuits, or crowded into little 
space by manufacturing industry— even the wanderers with 

* In ancient times a Roman citizen who became an artisan was expelled from 
his tribe OiJcvi ^ 4^^v 'YvnuJuav o&rt Kdinj\0¥ dJrf x^^P^^XJf^^^ ^^^^ ^X*^* 
Dionys. Halicar. ix. 25. 

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the caravan and the navigators of ships — rarely perpetuate 
their own numbers. All these hunters after riches require 
to be constantly recruited from the agricultural population 
of their respective countries. This constant change, which 
is going on in the population of cities, operates powerfully in 
altering the condition of society in each successive generation. 
Hence we find the nature of society in Constantinople strongly 
opposed to the principles of the Byzantine government. The 
imperial government, as has been already mentioned, inherited 
the conservative principles of Roman society, and, had it been 
possible, would have fettered the population to its actual 
condition and reduced the people to castes. The laws of 
Providence opposed the laws of Rome, and society dwindled 
away. The ruling classes in the Western Empire had expired 
before their place was occupied by the conquering nations of 
the north. In the Eastern Empire the change went on more 
gradually; the towns and cities were far more numerous, but 
many of them embraced within their own walls an agricultural 
population, which not only recruited the population engaged 
in trade, but also sent off continual colonies to maintain the 
great cities of the empire, and especially Constantinople. 
This great capital, recruited from distant towns, and from 
nations dissimilar in manners and language, was consequently 
always undergoing great changes, yet always preserving its 
peculiar type of a city destitute of any decided nationality, 
and of homogeneity in its society. It became in turn a 
Roman, an Asiatic, and a Greek city, as the Roman, the 
Asiatic, or the Greek aristocracy acquired the predominant 
influence in the administration. Under the Iconoclasts, it 
was decidedly more an Asiatic city than either a Greek or 
a Roman. Whether the Asiatics, the Greeks, or the Scla- 
vonians formed the greater number of the inhabitants, cannot 
be ascertained. The aristocracy was certainly Asiatic, the 
middle classes and artisans were chiefly Greeks, but the lowest 
rabble, the day labourers, the porters, and the domestic ser- 
vants, when not slaves, appear to have consisted principally of 
the Sclavonians of Thrace and Macedonia, who, like the 
Emperor Basil the Macedonian, entered the city with a wallet 
on their shoulder to seek their fortune. A similar condition 
of society exists to-day, and thousands of labourers may be 
seen weekly arriving at Constantinople in the steamers from 

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the Asiatic coast of the Black Sea, and from the coasts between 
Smyrna, Thessalonica, and the capital. 

The decline of society throughout the Roman world has 
been already noticed, and the nature of the improvement 
which took place in the Eastern Empire during the reigns 
of Leo III. and his successors has been pointed out. It is 
now necessary to examine why the improvement of society 
so soon assumed a stationary aspect. We must not forget 
that the empire was still Roman in its name, traditions, and 
prejudices. The trammels, binding the actions and even the 
thoughts of the various classes, were very slightly relaxed, and 
the permanent relaxation had been made in the interest of the 
government, not of the people. Men of every rank were 
confined within a restricted circle, and compelled to act in 
their individual spheres in one unvarying manner. Within 
the imperial palace the incessant ceremonial was regarded as 
the highest branch of human knowledge. It was multiplied 
into a code, and treated as a science. In the church, tra- 
dition, not gospel, was the guide, and the innumerable forms 
and ceremonies and liturgies were hostile to the exercise of 
thought and the use of reason. Among the people at large, 
though the curial system of castes had been broken down, 
still the trader was fettered to his corporation, and often to 
his quarter or his street, where he exercised his calling 
amidst men of the same profession. The education of the 
child, and the tendencies of society, both prevented the indi- 
vidual from acquiring more than the confined knowledge 
requisite for his position in the empire. No learning, no 
talent, and no virtue could conduct either to distinction or 
wealth, unless exercised according to the fixed formulas that 
governed the state and the church. Hence even the mer- 
chant, who travelled over all Asia, and who supported the 
system by the immense duties he furnished to government, 
supplied no new ideas to society, and perhaps passed through 
life without acquiring many. 

This peculiar constitution of society explains the origin 
of some vices in the character of the Greeks of later times, 
which are erroneously supposed to be an inheritance of the 
days of liberty. The envy and jealousy produced by party 
contests in small republics were certainly very great, and, we 
may add, quite natural, for both passions and interests were 

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sharpened by hourly personal collision, and their political 
institutions rendered law imperfect. The envy and jealousy 
of later times were baser feelings, and had their origin in 
meaner interests. Roman society crowded men of the same 
professions together, and in some measure excluded them 
from much intercourse with others. The consequence was, 
that a violent struggle for wealth, and often for the means 
of existence, was created amoiigst those living in permanent 
personal contact. Every man was deeply interested in ren- 
dering his nearest neighbour in some degree his inferior, 
for individual advancement being almost impossible in the 
stationary condition of Roman society, the only method of 
obtaining any superiority was by the depreciation of the moral 
or professional character of rivals who were always near neigh- 
bours. Envy and calumny were the feelings of the mind 
which Roman society under the emperors tended to develop 
in every rank. The same cause produces the same effect in 
the Greek bazaar of every Turkish town of the present day, 
where tradesmen of the same profession are crowded into the 
same street. When it is impossible to depreciate the merit of 
the material and the workmanship, it is easy to calumniate 
the moral character of the workman. 

The influence of the Greek church on the political fabric of 
the empire failed to infuse a sound moral spirit into either the 
administration or the people, Still it may be possible to 
trace some of the secondary causes which prepared the way 
for the reforms of Leo IH. to the sense of justice, moral 
respect, and real religious faith, infused into the mass of the 
population by a comparison of the doctrines of Christianity 
with those of Mohammedanism. But the blindness of the 
age has concealed from our view many of the causes which 
impelled society ta co-operate with the Iconoclast emperors in 
their career of improvement and reorganization. That the 
moral condition of the people of the Byzantine empire under 
the Iconoclast emperors was superior to that of any equal 
number of the human race in any preceding period, can handly 
be doubted. The bulk of society occupied a higher social 
position in the time of Constantine Copronymus than of 
Pericles ; the masses had gained more by the decrease of 
slavery and the extension of free labour than the privil^ed 
citizens had lost. Public opinion, though occupied on meaner 


by Google 


AJ). 716-867.] 

objects, had a more extended basis, and embraced a larger 
class. Perhaps, too, the war of opinions concerning ecclesias- 
tical forms or subtleties tended to develop pure morality as 
much as the ambitious party-struggles of the Pnyx. When 
the merits and defects of each age are fairly weighed, both will 
be found to offer lessons of experience which the student of 
political history ought not to neglect. 

There may be some difference of opinion concerning the 
respective merits of Hellenic, Roman, and Byzantine society, 
but there can be none concerning the superiority of Byzantine 
over that which existed in the contemporary empires of the 
Saracens and the Franks. There we find all moral restraints 
weakened, and privil^ed classes or conquering nations ruling 
an immense subject population, with very little reference to 
law, morality, or religion. Violence and injustice claimed at 
Bagdad an unbounded license, until the Turkish mercenaries 
extinguished the caliphate, and it was the Norman invaders 
who reformed the social condition of the Franks. Mohamme- 
danism legalized polygamy with all its evils in the East. In 
the West, licentiousness was unbounded, in defiance of the 
precepts of Christianity. Charles Martel, Pepin, and Charle- 
magne are said to have had two wives at a time, and a 
numerous household of concubines. But on turning to the 
Byzantine empire, we find that the Emperor Constantine VI. 
prepared the way for his own ruin by divorcing his first wife 
2tnd marrying a second, in what was considered an illegal 
manner. The laws of the Franks attest the frequency of 
female drunkenness; and the whole l^islation of Western 
Europe, during the seventh and eighth centuries, indicates 
great immorality, and a degree of social anarchy, which 
explains more clearly than the political events recorded in 
l^ory, the real cause of the fall of one government after 
another^. The superior moral tone of society in the Byzan- 
tme empire was one of the great causes of its long duration ; 
it was its true conservative principle. 

The authority exercised by the senate, the powers possessed 
by synods and general councils of the church, and the 
importance often attached by the emperors to the ratification 

Capefigue, Chariemagrut i. 54, 185. 

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[Bk.I.Ch.IV. Sa. 
of their laws by silentia and popular assemblies, mark a 
change in the Byzantine empire in strong contrast with the 
earlier military empire of the Romans. The highest power in 
the state had been transferred from the army to the laws of 
the empire — no inconsiderable step in the progress of political 
civilization. The influence of those feelings of humanity 
which resulted from this change is visible in the mild 
treatment of many unsuccessful usurpers and dethroned 
emperors. During the reign of Nicephorus I., the sons of 
Constantine V., Bardanes, and Arsaber, were all living in 
monasteries, though they" had all attempted to occupy the 
throne. Constantine VI. and Michael I. lived unmolested by 
their successors. 

The marked feature of ancient society was the division 
of mankind into two great classes — freemen and slaves. 
The proportion between these classes was liable to con- 
tinual variation, and every considerable variation produced 
a corresponding alteration in the laws of society, which we 
are generally unable to follow. The progress of the mass 
of the population was, however, constantly retarded until 
the extinction of slavery. But towards that boon to mankind, 
great progress was made in the Byzantine empire during the 
eighth and ninth centuries. The causes that directly tended 
to render free labour more profitable than it had been 
hitherto, when applied to the cultivation of the soil, and 
which consequently operated more immediately in extin- 
guishing predial slavery, and repressing the most extensive 
branch of the slave-trade, by supplying the cities with free 
emigrants, cannot be indicated with precision. It has 
been very generally asserted that we ought to attribute the 
change to the influence of the Christian religion. If this 
be really true, cavillers might observe that so powerful 
a cause never in any other case produced its effects so 
tardily. Unfortunately, however, though ecclesiastical in- 
fluence has exercised immense authority over the internal 
policy of European society, religious influence has always 
been comparatively small ; and though Christianity has 
laboured to abolish slavery, it was often for the interest 
of the church to perpetuate the institution. Slavery had, in 
fact, ceased to exist in most European countries, while many 
Christians still upheld its legality, and maintained that its 

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AJD. 716-867.3 

existence was not at variance with the doctrines of their 
religion ^. 

The precise condition of slaves in the Byzantine empire at 
this period must be learned from a careful study of the 
imperial l^slation of Rome, compared with later documents. 
As a proof of the improved philanthropy of enlightened men 
during the Iconoclast period, the testament of Theodore 
Studita deserves to be quoted. That bold and independent 
abbot says, * A monk ought not to possess a slave, neither for 
his own service, nor for the service of his monastery, nor for 
the culture of its lands ; for a slave is a man made after the 
image of God ; ' but he derogates in some degree from his 
own merits, though he gives a correct picture of the feelings of 
his time, by adding, ^ and this, like marriage, is only allowable 
in those living a secular life 2.* 

The foundation of numerous hospitals and other charitable 
institutions, both by emperors and private individuals, is also 
a proof that feelings of philanthropy as well as religion had 
penetrated deeply into men's minds. 

The theologic spirit which pervaded Byzantine society is to 
be attributed as much to material causes as to the intellectual 
condition of the Greek nation. Indeed, the Greeks had at 
times only a secondary share in the ecclesiastical controversies 
in the Eastern church, though the circumstance of those 
controversies having been carried on in the Greek language 
has made the nations of western Europe attribute them to a 
philosophic, speculative, and polemic spirit inherent in the 
Hellenic mind. A very slight examination of history is 
sufficient to prove, that several of the heresies which disturbed 
the Eastern church had their origin in the more profound 
religious ideas of the Oriental nations, and that many of 
the opinions called heretical were, in a great measure, expres- 
sions of the mental nationality of the Syrians, Armenians, 

* For the extent to which the slave-trade was carried on by the Latin Chris- 
tians, see Marin, Storia civil* * poiitiea dd Commercio de* Veneziani^ ii. 5a. 

• S. Theodori Stnditae EpiUolat aliaqut Scripta Dogmatica, in the fifth volume 
of Sirmondi, Opera Varia, p. C6. On the subject of Roman and Byzantine slavery, 
see Blair, An Inquiry into tk* SUU$ of Slavery amongst the Romans; Biot. De PAboli' 
tkm de VEulavage ancien en Occident; Babington, T%e Influence of Christianity in 
Promoting the Abolition of Slavery in Europe; and Wallon, Histoire de VEsclavage 
done rAntiquitS. This last work is a valuable addition to our knowledge of society 
under the Roman emperors. 

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aaa iconoclast period. 

Egyptians, and Persians, and had no connection whatever 
with the Greek mind. 

Even the contest with the Iconoclasts was a dispute in 
which the ancient Oriental opinions concerning the operations 
of mind and matter were as much concerned, as the Greek 
contest between the necessity of artificial symbols of faith 
on the one hand, and the duty of developing the mtellectual 
faculties by cultivating truth through the reason, not the 
imagination, on the other. The ablest writer on the Greek 
side of the question, John Damascenus, was a Syrian, and not 
a Greek. The political struggle to establish the centralization 
of ecclesiastical and political power was likewise quite as 
important an element in the contest as the religious question; 
and as soon as it appeared firmly established, the emperors 
became inclined to yield to popular prejudices. The victory 
of the image-worshippers tended to exalt a party in the 
Eastern church devoted to ecclesiastical tradition, but little 
inclined to cultivate Hellenic literature or cherish Hellenic 
ideas, which it considered hostile to the l^endary lore 
contained in the lives of the saints. After the victory of this 
party, accordingly, we find a more circumscribed circle of 
intellectual culture began to prevail in the Byzantine emfrire. 
John the Grammarian, Leo the Mathematician, and Photius, 
who acquired his vast literary attainments as a layman, were 
the last profound and enlightened Byzantine scholars : they 
left no successors, nor has any Greek of the same intellectual 
calibre since appeared in the world. 

A greater similarity of thought and action may be traced 
throughout the Christian world in the eighth century than in 
subsequent ages. The same predominance of religious feeling 
and ecclesiastical ceremonials ; the same passion for founding 
monasteries and raising discussions; the same disposition to 
make life subservient to religion, to make all amusements 
ecclesiastical, and to embody the enjoyment of music, painting, 
and poetry in the ceremonies of the church ; the same abuse 
of the right of asylum to criminals by the ecclesiastical 
authorities, and the same antagonism between the church and 
the state, is visible in the East and the West *. 

* The influence of the monks during the Iconoclast contest became so great 
that the monasteries on Olympus, Athos, and Ida formed themselves into small 
republics, and almost aspired at living independent of the civil power. GenesinSi 

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AJ). 716-867.] 

The orthodox church was originally Greek; the seven 
general councils whose canons had fixed its doctrines were 
Greek ; and the popes, when they rose into importance, could 
only adopt a scheme of theology already framed. The 
religious or theological portion of Popery, as a section of the 
Christian church, is really Greek ; and it is only the ecclesias- 
tical, political, and theocratic peculiarities of the fabric which 
can be considered as the work of the Latin church. The 
general unity of Christians was, however, prominent in good 
as well as evil ; the missionary labours of Boniface among the 
Germans, at the commencement of the eighth century, reflect 
glory on the Latin church, and the conversion of the Bulgar- 
ians in the middle of the ninth, by the ministry of Methodios 
and Kyrillos, is honourable to the Byzantine. These two 
monks, natives of Thessalonica, where they lived surrounded 
by a fierce tribe of Sclavonians, devoted themselves to study 
the language of these troublesome neighbours. Under the 
regency of the Empress Theodora, they rendered their know- 
ledge of the Sclavonian dialect the means of propagating 
Christianity and advancing the cause of civilization, by 
visiting Bulgaria in the character of missionaries. They are 
universally allowed to have conducted their mission in a 
Christian spirit, and to have merited the great success that 
attended their labours ^ 

The improvement which took place in the administration of 
justice, and the legal reforms effected by Leo IH. and 

39. [Genestos only says, ' These* havens of orthodoxy, guarded by the power of 
Christ, from that time to the present remain undisturb^.* £1d.] The Emperor 
Theof^Ius, a man by no means under the direct influence of the clergy, formed 
a new asylum for criminals at the silver tomb of his beloved daughter Maria. 
Leo Gramm. 451. 

* Mosheim, Ecclnicutical Hhiory, ii. 169; Neander, History of the Christian ReU- 
giom and Church, iiL 307. [It is strange that the author should have dismissed 
the apostles of the Slavonians with this passing notice, just as he has ignored 
Ulphuas, the Arian apostle of the Goths, in the first volume. Yet these two 
missions, together with the invention of the Gothic and Cyrillic alphabets, are 
among the most important influences exercised by the Eastern Empire. The 
story of Cyril and Methodius is one of the most romantic and the most in- 
structiTe in B3rzantine history, combining as it does the East and the West, 
civilized states and barbarians, history and legend. In addition to the older 
tuthurities mentioned in the notes to Mosheim, the reader is referred especially 
to the important works of Dobrowsky — Cyrill und Mtfhodius (Prag 1823). and 
Mdkrisehs LetfituU (Prag i8a6)— in the Ahhandlungtn of the Bohemian OeseUiehafi 
dmr Wissensekafttn^ vols. viii. and i. {neut folgi) respectively. Later contributiojis 
to the subject are Diimmler, Dit pannomsehe L^endt vom heil. Methodius ; Ddmmler 
and Miklosich, Die LegetuU von dem heil. C^lus ; and Louis Leger, ttude sur 
Cyrille et Mithode $t la Conversion des Slaves an Ckristianisme, £d.] 

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[Bk.I.Ch.IV.5 3. 

Constantine V., have been already noticed. Leo V. and 
Theophilus also gained great praise, even from their adver- 
saries, for the strict control they established over the forms 
of proceeding and the decisions of the courts of law. The 
legal monuments of this period, however, by no means 
correspond with the extent of the administrative improvement 
which took place. The era of legislative greatness in the 
Byzantine empire was under the Basilian dynasty, but it was 
under the Iconoclast emperors that new vigour was infused 
into the system, and the improvements were made which laid 
the foundation of the stability, wealth, and power of the 
Byzantine empire. 

The scientific attainments of the educated class in the 
Byzantine empire were unquestionably very considerable. 
Many learned men were invited to the court of the Caliph 
Almamun, and contributed far more than his own subjects to 
the reputation that sovereign has deservedly gained in the 
history of science. The accurate measurement of the earth's 
orbit in his time shows that astronomical and mathematical 
knowledge had at no previous period attained a greater 
height ; and if the Byzantine authorities are to be credited, 
Leo the Mathematician, who was afterwards archbishop of 
Thessalonica, was invited to the court of the caliph, because 
he was universally recognized to be superior to all the 
scientific men at Bagdad in mathematical and mechanical 
knowledge^. A proof that learning was still cultivated in 
the distant provinces of the Byzantine empire, and that 
schools of some eminence existed in'Greece, is to be found in 
the fact that Leo, when a layman, retired to a college in the 
island of Andros to pursue his studies, and there laid the 
foundation of the scientific knowledge by which he acquired 
his reputation. After he was compelled, on account of his 
opposition to image-worship, to resign the archbishopric of 

* Almamun's astronomers calculated the length of the year at 365 days 5 hours 
46 mmutes and .^o seconds. The true length is 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 
48 seconds. Niebuhr has pointed out the exactitude attained by the Etruscans 
in fixing the length of the solar year. B'tU, of Rome, i. 374. The Mexican 
calendar in use before the discovery of America was the most perfect before 
the Gregorian. Humboldt* Vues des Cordilleras #/ Monumens des PeupUs Jndigina 
de rAmirique^ 125. For the obligations of the Arabs to the Byzantines from the 
time of Mansur, see Weil, ii. 81, 84, 93. Greek physicians and Greek cooks are 
mentioned in the Arabian Nights. The Caliph Mansur was attended by Greek 
and Indian physicians. 

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A J). 716-867.] 

Thessalonica, the general respect felt for his learning obtained 
for him from Bardas Caesar the appointment of president of 
the new university, founded at Constantinople in the reign of 
Michael III., in which chairs of geometry and astronomy had 
been established, as well as the usual instruction in Greek 
literature *. 

It was under the direction of Leo that several of those 
remarkable works of jewellery, combined with wonderful 
mechanical contrivances, were executed for the Emperor 
Theophilus, which have been already mentioned ^ The 
perfection of the telegraph by fire-signals, from the frontiers of 
the empire to the shores of the Bosphorus, and the machinery 
by which the signals were communicated to a dial placed in 
the imperial council-chamber, were also the work of Leo^. 
The fame which still attended distinguished artists and 
mechanicians at Constantinople shows us that the love of 
knowledge and art was not entirely extinct ; and the relics of 
Byzantine jewellery, often found buried in the most distant 
regions of Europe, prove that a considerable trade was carried 
on in these works. 

Even the art of statuary was not entirely neglected, for it 
has been noticed already that Constantine VI. erected a 
statue of bronze in honour of his mother Irene ^. Painting, 
however, was more universally admired, and mosaics were 
easily adapted to private dwellings. There were many dis- 
tinguished painters in the Byzantine empire at this time, and 
there is reason to think that some of their productions were 
wonderful displays of artistic skill, without giving credit to 
the miraculous powers of the works of Lazaros. The mis- 
sionary Methodios awakened the terror of the King of the 
Bulgarians by a vivid representation of the tortures of the 
damned, in a painting combining the natural portraiture of 
frightful realities mixed with horrors supplied from a fertile 

' The history of Leo is given at length by the Continuator, 115. He was 
called the great philosopher, and it is said that Almamun wrote to Theophilus 
requesting him to send Leo to the court of Bagdad. Leo studied gramnoar and 
poetry at Constantinople ; rhetoric, philosophy, and the pure sciences at Andros. 
In the year 869 he was present in the Cnurch of the Virgin, called Sigma C. 
when it fell in consequence of the shock of an earthquake, and all the con- 
gregation, with the exception of Leo and a few others, perished. Symeon 
Mag. 454. 

* Seep. 151. 

* Contin. laa; S3rmeon Mag. 450; Const. Manasses, 107. 

* Codinus, De Ong. Constant, 6a. 

VOL. IL Q C"i^n,n]i> 

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imagination. The sombre character of Byzantine art was 
well adapted to the subject, and the fame Methodios 
acquired among his contemporaries, as well as from those in 
after times who saw his paintings, may be accepted as a proof 
that they possessed some touches of nature and truth. It 
would be unfair to decide peremptorily on the effect of larger 
works of art from the illuminated Byzantine manuscripts which 
still exist. Art is subject to strange vicissitudes in very 
short periods, as may be seen by any one who compares a 
guinea of the reign of George III. with a coin of Cromwell or 
even Queen Anne, or who turns his eye from Whitehall to the 
National Gallery \ 

The literature of the ancient world was never entirely 
neglected at Constantinople, so that the intellectual culture 
of each successive period must always be viewed in connection 
with the ages immediately preceding. The literary history of 
Constantinople consequently opens a field of inquiry too wide 
to be entered on in the limited space assigned to this political 
history. The works of the classic writers of Hellas, of the 
legists of Rome, and of the fathers of Christian theology, 
all exercised a direct influence on Byzantine literature at 
every period of its existence, until Constantinople was con- 
quered by the Turks. It has been too much the practice of 
the literary historians of Europe to underrate the positive 
knowledge of ancient literature possessed by the learned in 
the East during the eighth and ninth centuries. What has 
been often called the dawn of civilization, even in the West, 
was nothing more than an acquaintance with the bad models 
transmitted from the last ages of ancient literature. It is as 
great an error as to suppose that the English of the present 
day are ignorant of sculpture, because they are occupied in 
adorning the new Houses of Parliament with deformed 
statues; and of architecture, because they have built a 
gallery for their pictures ill suited to the desired object*. 

* The MSS. of the works of St. Gregory of Nazianzus in the National Libnuy 
at Paris, and of the Menologium of Basil in the Library of the Vatican, with 
their rich decorations and miniatures, belong to the ninth century. The copy 
of the Menologium was prepared for the Emperor Basil I. 

' M. Guizot, from not paying sufficient attention to this fact, has mistaken the 
sophistry of the second century for the rays of a supposed dawn of civilization 
in the eighth. In his excellent Histoirt de la Civilisation en France (ii. 183), he 
gives specimens of a disputaiio between Alcuin and Pepin, the son of Charlcnwgnc, 
which he considers as an example of the eager curiosity with which the human 


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A.D. 716-867] 

The most eminent Byzantine writers of this period were 
George Syncellus, Theophanes, the Patriarch Nicephoros, and 
perhaps John Malalas, in history; John Damascenus (who 
perhaps may be considered as a Syrian) and Theodore 
Studita, in theology ; and Photius, in general literature. 

During the middle ages the Greek scientific writers became 
generally known in western Europe by means of translations 
from Arabic versions, and this circumstance has induced 
many to draw the conclusion that these wqrks were better 
known and more popular among the Arabs at Cordova, Cairo, 
and Bagdad, than among the Greeks at Constantinople. The 
Almagest of Ptolemy affords an example of this double 
translation and erroneous inference. 

mind, while young and ignorant, views every unexpected combination of ideas. 
Unfortunately the work he thus characterizes is a verbal translation from Secundus, 
an Athenian sophist of the time of Hadrian, or a transcript of part of an altercatio 
attributed to Hadrian and Epictetus. See Orellius, Opuscula Graeeorum V$terum 
Sententiosa et Maralia, i. ai8» 


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Basilian Dynasty— Period of the Power and Glory 
OF THE Byzantine Empire. a.d. 867-1057. 


Consolidation of Byzantine Legislation and 
Despotism. a.d. 867-963. 

Sect. I. — Reign of Basil L (the Macedonian), a.d. 867-886. 

Personal history of Basil.— Ecclesiastical administration. — Financial l^slation. 
— Military administration. — Paulician war. — Campaigns in Asia Minor.— 
Saracens ravage Sicily and Italy. — Coiut and character of Basil I. 

The history of Basil I. has been transmitted to us by 
writers who compiled their works under the eye of his grand- 
son, the Emperor Constantine VII., and by that grandson with 
his own pen. Under such auspices, history is more likely 
to conceal much of the truth, than to record nothing but 
the truth. One instance of falsification may be mentioned. 
The imperial compilations would fain persuade us that the 
Sclavonian groom was a man of noble descent ^ and that he 

' The Armenian historians claim Basil as a countryman, but it seems they only 
echo the genealogy invented at Constantinople to flatter the emperor. Chamicli, 
History cf Armenia^ ii. 8; Le Beau, xiii. i8o, 184, 479; Gibbon, vi. 95. Hamsa 
of Ispahan says he was of Sclavonian race. Reiske, ComnurUarii ad Omsttmt. 
Porphyr. de Caeremoniis Aulas Byz. ii. 451, edit. Bonn. There is a confinnatioa 
of this in the expression icar^ ir6fyi{ay, in Genesius, 53; according to Kopitar, 
GlafTolita, Ixxi. See Constant. Porphyr. Basilius, 138; and Ephraemius, iii. 
[M. Rambaud, in his exhaustive work L Empire grec au dixieme Steele (pp. 147, 148), 
comes to the conclusion that there is more evidence for the Armenian, than for the 
Slavonic origin of Basil. He points out (i) that numerous Armenian colonies had 
been established in Thrace, a fact which is attested (p. '219) by many inscriptions 
discovered in that country by M. Albert Dumont; (2) that Basil had a brother 
called Symbatios or Sempad, a name of Armenian derivation ; (3) that the Arme- 
nian historians even mention the place in Armenia from which Basil's family 
originally came. The second of these points has certainly considerable weight. 

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could trace that descent either through a line of paternal or 
maternal ancestors to Constantine, to the Arsacidae, and to 
Alexander the Great, yet they allow that his father laboured 
as a poor peasant in the neighbourhood of Adrianople, until 
Basil himself, despising the cultivation of the paternal farm, 
sought to improve his fortune by wandering to the capital. 
We are told by other authorities that Basil was a Sclavonian, 
and we know that the whole of Thrace and Macedonia was at 
this period cultivated by Sclavonian colonists. His father's 
family had been carried away captive into Bulgaria when 
Crumn took Adrianople while Basil was still a child, A.D. 813. 
During the reign of Theophilus, some Byzantine captives 
succeeded in taking up arms and marching off into the 
empire. Basil was among the number, and after serving the 
governor of Macedonia for a time, he resolved to seek his 
fortune in Constantinople ^ He departed, carrying all his 
worldly wealth in a wallet on his shoulders, and reached the 
capital on a summer's evening without knowing where to find 
a night's rest. Fatigued with his journey, he sat down in the 
portico of the church of St. Diomed, near the Adrianople 
gate, and slept there all night. In a short time he obtained 
employment as a groom in the service of a courtier named 
Theophilitzes, where his talent of taming unruly horses, his 
large head, tall figure, and great strength, rendered him remark- 
able; while his activity, zeal, and intelligence secured him 
particular notice from his master, and rapid promotion in his 
household ^. 

Theophilitzes was sent into the Peloponnesus on public 
business by the Empress Theodora, while she was regent ; 
and Basil, who accompanied his master, fell sick at Patrae 
with the fever, still so prevalent in the Morea. Here he was 
fortunate enough to acquire the protection of an old lady of 
immense wealth, whose extraordinary liberality to the 
unknown youth induces us to suppose that she was herself of 
Sclavonian race ^. She made Basil a member of her family, 

The royal extraction of Basil M. Rambaud regards as questionable. It might 
rather be said to be in the highest degree improbable, as it was not likely that the 
peasant ancestors of the Emperor should have preserved such a tradition, and there 
would be a strong temptation to invent it subsequently. Ed.] 

* Symeon Mag. 4^4. 

' Constant. Porphyr. BasiV/Vs, 144. 

» Nikctas, a Sclavonian of Peloponnesus, celebrated for his pride, was conneced 
by marriage with Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the grandson of Basil. 

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by uniting him with her own son John, in those spiritual ties 
of fraternity which the Greek church sanctions by peculiar 
rites ^; and she bestowed on him considerable wealth when 
he was able to return to his master. It would appear that 
Basil already occupied a position of some rank, for the widow 
Danielis furnished him with a train of thirty slaves. The 
riches Basil acquired by the generosity of his benefactress 
were employed in purchasing an estate in Macedonia, and 
in making liberal donations to his own relations. He still 
continued in the service of Theophilitzes, but his skill in 
wrestling and taming horses at last introduced him to the 
Emperor Michael, who immediately became his patron. His 
progress as boon-companion, friend, colleague, and murderer 
of this benefactor has been already recounted. 

The elevation of a man like Basil to the throne of Constan- 
tinople was a strange accident ; but the fact that he reigned 
for nineteen years seems still more singular, when we recollect 
that he could neither boast of military service nor administra- 
tive knowledge. Nothing can prove more completely the 
perfection of the governmental machine at the time of his 
accession, than the circumstance that a man without education 
could so easily be moulded into a tolerable emperor. Person- 
ally, he could have possessed no partisans either in the army 
or the administration ; nor is it likely that he had many 
among the people. We are tempted to conjecture that he was 
allowed to establish himself on the throne because less was 
known about him than about most of the other men of influ- 
ence at court, and consequently less evil was laid to his charge, 
and less personal opposition was created by his election. He 
succeeded in maintaining his position by displaying unex- 
pected talents for administration. Able and unprincipled, he 

* [The process of forming fraternal friendships here referred to was called in medi- 
aeval and ecclesiastical language dScXi^oiroifa or dScA^oiro^i/ffcs, and the expression in 
this place for the relationship of Basil and the son of Danielis^is dScX^x^ 
irvcv^riiv^. The modem Greeks use the term <TvyahiX<po)<rit. According to this, 
two young men engage to support and aid one another during their lives in all 
contingencies. The Slavonic name for such persons is pobratim. The same 
custom is found among the Albanians, even among those of the Mirdite tribe, 
who are Roman Catholics. The relationship is regarded as of the most sacred 
and inviolable character, and by some the children of those who have contracted 
the alliance are not allowed to marry one another. M. Hecquard mentions {La 
Haute Alhanie^ p. 388) a ceremony of initiation observed by some Albanians, in 
which the two persons, after receiving the communion together, have a small 
quantity of their blood mixed in a bowl of wine, which is drunk by both, when 
tney have sworn an oath of fidelity. Ed.] 

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AJ>. 867-886.] 

seems to have pursued a line of conduct which prevented the 
factions of the court, the parties in the church, the feelings of 
the army, and the prejudices of the people, from ever uniting 
in opposition to his personal authority. His knowledge of the 
sentiments of the people rendered him aware that financial 
oppression was the most dangerous grievance both to the em- 
peror and the empire ; he therefore carefully avoided increasing 
the public burdens, and devoted his chief attention to the 
establishment of order in every branch of the public service. 

The depravity and impiety of Michael III. had disgusted 
the people. Basil, in order to proclaim that his conduct was 
to be guided by different sentiments, seized the opportunity 
of his coronation in the Church of St. Sophia to make a public 
display of his piety. After the ceremony was concluded, he 
knelt down at the high altar and cried with a loud voice, 
* Lord, thou hast given me the crown ; I deposit it at thy 
feet, and dedicate myself to thy service.' The crimes and 
intrigues of courts are often kept so long secret in despotic 
governments, that it is possible few of those present who heard 
this declaration were aware that a few hours only had elapsed 
since the hypocritical devotee had buried his sword in the 
bosom of his sovereign and benefactor. 

For two years Basil made no change in the government of 
the church. Photius, the actual Patriarch, was unpopular from 
his connection with the family of the late emperor, and for 
the toleration he had shown for the vices of the court, while 
Ignatius, his deposed predecessor, possessed a powerful body 
of partisans anwng the people and the monks. Basil attached 
this numerous and active party to his interest by reinstating 
Ignatius in the patriarchate ; but at the same time he con- 
trived to avoid exciting any violent opposition on the part of 
Photius, by keeping up constant personal communications 
with that accomplished and able ecclesiastic. Photius was at 
the head of a party possessed of no inconsiderable weight in 
the church and the public administration. The aristocratic 
classes, and the Asiatics generally, favoured his cause ; while 
the people of Constantinople and the Greeks of Europe were 
warm supporters of Ignatius. 

The arbitrary authority of the emperor over the church is as 
strongly displayed in the treatment of Photius by Basil, as in 
the persecution of Ignatius by Bardas and Michael. Photius 

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had occupied the patriarchal chair for ten years, and though 
his election may have been irregular, his ecclesiastical autho- 
rity was completely established ; and there appeared no 
chance that anything would occur to disturb it, when Basil, to 
gain a body of active political partisans, suddenly reinstated 
Ignatius. It is said that Photius reproached the emperor with 
the murder of his benefactor; but as he was allowed to re- 
main in office for about two years, his deposition must be 
ascribed entirely to political motives. The fact is, that Basil 
wished to secure the support of the monks in the East, and of 
the Pope of Rome in the West, yet feared to quarrel with the 
party of Photius ^ 

The negotiations with the Pope occupied some time, but 
when they were brought to a conclusion, a general council was 
held at Constantinople, which is called by the Latins the 
eighth general council of the church. Only one hundred and 
two bishops could be assembled on this occasion, for the 
greater part of the dignified clergy had been consecrated by 
Photius, and many adhered to his party ^. Photius himself 
was compelled to attend, but his calm and dignified attitude 
deprived his enemies of the triumph they had expected. The 
acts of the council of 86i, by which Ignatius had been de- 
posed, were declared to be forgeries, and the consecration of 
Photius as a priest was annulled. The accusation of forgery 
was generally regarded as false, since it rested only on some 
slight changes which had been made in the translation of the 
Pope's letter to the emperor, and these changes had been 
sanctioned by the papal legates who were present in the 
council. The Latins, who expect the Greeks to tolerate them 
in lengthening the Creed, have made a violent outcry against 
the Greeks, on this occasion, for modifying the words of a 
papal letter in a Greek translation. The compliancy of Basil, 
the reintegration of Ignatius, and the subservient disposition 
of the council of 869, induced the Pope to suppose that the 
time had arrived when it would be possible to regain posses- 
sion of the estates belonging to the patrimony of St. Peter in 
the provinces of the Eastern Empire, which had been confis- 

* Photius baptized Stephen, the son of Basil, on Christmas-day, 868. Symeon 
Mag. 454: Georg. Mon. 544; Leo Giamm. 471. 

* This council commenced on the 5th October 869, and teiminated on the lath 
February 870. The entire acts are only preserved in the Latin translation of 
Anastasius Bibliothecarius. A Greek abridgment exists. 


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cated by Leo III., and that the supremacy of the See of Rome 
over the kingdom of Bulgaria might be firmly established. 
He even hoped to gain the power of controlling the ecclesi- 
astical affairs of the Eastern church. Such pretensions, how- 
ever, only required to be plainly revealed to insure unanimous 
opposition on the part of the emperor, the clergy, and the 
people throughout the Byzantine empire. Ignatius and Basil 
showed themselves as firm in resisting papal usurpation as 
Photius and Michael. 

In the mean time, Photius was banished to the monastery of 
Skepes ; and we possess several of his letters, written during 
the period of his disgrace, which give a more favourable view 
of his character than would be formed from his public life 
alone. They afford convincing proof of the falsity of some 
of the chaises brought against him by his opponents. The 
real fault of Photius was, that the statesman, and not the 
Christian, was dominant in his conduct as Patriarch ; but this 
has been a fault so general at Rome, at Constantinople, and 
at Canterbury, that he would have incurred little censure in 
the west had he not shown himself a devoted partisan of his 
national church, and a successful enemy of papal ambition. 
The majority of the Eastern bishops, in spite of his exile, re- 
mained attached to his cause, and it was soon evident to Basil 
that his restoration was the only means of restoring unity to 
the Greek church. Accordingly, when Ignatius died in the 
year 878, Photius was reinstated as Patriarch, and another 
general council was assembled at Constantinople. This coun- 
cil, which is called the eighth general council of the church by 
the Eastern Christians, was attended by three hundred and 
eighty-three bishops. The Emperor Basil, the Pope, and 
Photius, all resolved to temporize, and each played his own 
game of diplomacy and tergiversation, in the hope of ulti- 
mately succeeding. The Pope proved the greatest loser, for 
his legates were bribed — at least the Latins say so — to yield 
up everything that Basil and Photius desired. They are even 
accused of having allowed a covert attack on the orthodoxy 
of Rome in lengthening the Creed by the addition of the 
words *and the Son' to pass unchallenged^. The passion 

* This council commenced in November 879, and terminated 13th March 880. 
Its acts are to be found in the collections of Hardouin and Coleti. 


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[Bk. II. Ch. I. % I. 

displayed by the clergy of the Greek and Latin churches, 

during the quarrels between Ignatius and Photius, makes it 

difficult to ascertain the truth. It appears, however, that 

Pope John VIII. would have restored the Nicene Creed to its 

original form, by expunging the clause which had been added, 

if he could have secured the concessions he required from the 

Easter-n church and the Byzantine emperor to his political 

pretensions. Certainly this is to be implied from the letter 

addressed to Photius ; but papal writers have since defended 

the consistency and infallibility of the popes, by asserting that 

the copy of the letter annexed to the acts of the council is a 

forgery. If either of the churches committed a tithe of the 

iniquities with which they charge one another, we must allow 

that Christianity exercised very little influence on the priestly 

character during the ninth century. 

When the Emperor Leo VI. succeeded his father Basil, 
Photius was again banished, in order to make way for the 
emperor's brother Stephen to occupy the patriarchal throne. 
Photius was exiled to a monastery in the Armeniac theme, 
A.D. 886, and he died in this retirement in the year 891, 
leaving behind him the reputation of having been the most 
accomplished and learned man of his time, and one of the last 
enlightened scholars in the East. Even Leo treated him with 
respect ; and in his letter to the Pope announcing his exile, he 
spoke of it as a voluntary resignation, which may, perhaps, be 
accounted a proof that it was the result of a political n^o- 
tiation. As this distinguished man was one of the most 
dangerous opponents of papal ambition prior to the time of 
Luther, his conduct has been made the object of innumerable 
misrepresentations; and the writers of the Romish church 
even now can rarely discuss his conduct in moderate language 
and with equitable feelings ^ 

One of the most interesting points of dispute to the heads 
of the Eastern and Western churches was the supremacy over 
the church of the Bulgarians. This was a momentous poli- 
tical question to the Byzantine emperors, independent of its 
ecclesiastical importance to the patriarchs of Constantinople, 
for papal influence was sure to be employed in a manner 
hostile to the Eastern Empire. Besides this, as the claim 

* The work of AbW Jager {Histoirt de Photius) may be cited as a proof. It 
is violent in its opinions, and inaccurate in its facts. 

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AJ). 867-886.] 

of Rome to supremacy over Bulgaria rested on the ancient 
subjection of the Danubian provinces to the archbishopric 
of Thessalonica, in the times when that archbishopric was 
immediately dependent on the Papal See, the establishment 
of papal authority in Bulgaria would have afforded good 
ground for commencing a struggle for withdrawing Thessa- 
lonica itself from the jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constan- 
tinople, and placing it under the control of the Pope of Rome. 
The conduct of the emperors of Constantinople in these 
ecclesiastical negotiations was therefore the result of sound 
policy, and it was marked with moderation and crowned with 

The financial administration of Basil was, on the whole, 
honourable to his government. At his accession, he gave 
out that he found only 300 lb. of gold, and a small quantity of 
silver coin, in the imperial treasury^. This served as a pretext 
for a partial resumption of some of the lavish grants of 
Michael to worthless favourites, and in this way Basil col- 
lected 30,000 lb. of gold without increasing the public burdens. 
With this supply in hand for immediate wants, he was enabled 
to take measures for effecting the economy necessary to make 
the ordinary revenues meet the demands of the public service. 
His personal experience of the real sufferings of the lower 
orders, and the prudence imposed by his doubtful position, 
prevented him, during the whole course of his reign, from 
augmenting the taxes ; and the adoption of this policy insured 
to his government the power and popularity which constituted 
him the founder of the longest dynasty that ever occupied the 
throne of Constantinople. Though his successors were, on the 
whole, far inferior to his predecessors of the Iconoclast period 
in ability, still their moderation, in conforming to the financial 
system traced out by Basil, gave the Byzantine empire a 
degree of power it had not previously possessed. 

The government of the Eastern Empire was always sys- 
tematic and generally cautious. Reforms were slowly effected ; 
but when the necessity was admitted, great changes were 
gradually completed. Generations, however, passed away 
without men noticing how far they had quitted the customs 

* Symeon Mag. (436) says thirteen centenaries of gold and nine sacks of 
miliaresia, so that the ten may have been omitted by a copyist in the Life 
of Basil by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (159). 

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[Bk.II.Ch.I. §1, 

of their fathers, and entered on new paths leading to very 
different habits, thoughts, and institutions. The reign of no 
one emperor, if we except that of Leo the Isaurian, embraces 
a revolution in the institutions of the state, completed in a 
single generation ; hence it is that Byzantine history loses the 
interest to be derived from individual biogfraphy. It steps 
over centuries, marking rather the movement of generations of 
mankind than the acts of individual emperors and statesmen, 
and it becomes a didactic essay on political progress instead 
of a living picture of man's actions. In the days of the 
liberty of Athens, the life of each leader embraces the history 
of many revolutions, and the mind of a single individual seems 
often to guide or modify their course; but in the years of 
Constantinopolitan servitude, emperors and people are borne 
slowly onward by a current of which we are not always 
certain that we can trace the origin or follow the direction. 
These observations receive their best development by a review 
of the legislative acts of the Basilian dynasty. It was reserved 
to Basil I. and his son Leo VI. to complete the reorganization 
of the empire commenced by Leo III. ; for the promulgation 
of a revised code of the laws of the empire, in the Greek lan- 
guage, was the accomplishment of an idea impressed on the 
Byzantine administration by the great Iconoclast reformer, 
and of which his own Ecloga or manual was the first imperfect 

The legal reforms of the early Iconoclast emperors enabled 
the judges to supply the exigencies of the moment, in the 
state of anarchy, ignorance, and disorder to which the pro- 
vinces were reduced by the ravages of the Sclavonians, 
Bulgarians, and Saracens. But when the vigorous adminis- 
tration of the Isaurian dynasty had driven back these invaders, 
and re-established order and security of property, the progress 
of society called for a systematic reform in the legislation of 
the empire. Enlarged views concerning the changes which it 
was necessary to make in the compilations of Justinian were 
gradually adopted. Nicephorus I. and Leo V. (the Armenian) 
seem to have confined their attention to practical reforms in 
the dispensation of justice, by improving the forms of pro- 
cedure in the existing tribunals ; but when Bardas was charged 
with the judicial department, during the reign of Michael III., 
the necessity of a thorough revision of the laws of the empire 

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AJ). 867-886.] 

was deeply felt. Bardas was probably ambitious of the glory 
of effecting this reform as the surest step to the imperial 
throne. The legal school at Constantinople, which he encou- 
raged, prepared the materials for the great legislative work 
that forms the marked feature in consolidating the power of 
the Basilian dynasty^. 

The l^islative views of Basil I., modelled in conformity to 
the policy impressed on the Byzantine empire by Leo III., 
were directed to vest all legislative power in the hands of 
the emperor, and to constitute the person of the sovereign 
the centre of law as much as of financial authority and military 
power 2. The senate continued to act as a legislative council 
from time to time during the Iconoclast period, and the 
emperors often invited it to discuss important laws, in order 
to give extraordinary solemnity to their sanction. Such a 
practice suggested the question whether the senate and the 
people did not still possess a right to share in the legislation 
of the empire, which opportunity might constitute into a per- 
manent control over the imperial authority in this branch of 
government. The absolute centralization of the legislative 
authority in the person of the emperor was the only point 
which prevented the government of the Byzantine empire 
from being theoretically an absolute despotism, when Basil 
I. ascended the throne, and he completed that centralization. 
Though the senate consisted of persons selected by the sove- 
reign, and though it acted generally as a subservient agent of 
the executive power, still, as some of the most powerful men 
in the empire were usually found among its members, its 
position as a legislative council invested it with a degree of 
political influence that might have checked the absolute power 
of the emperor. Basil deprived it of all participation in legis- 
lative functions, and restricted its duties solely to those of an 
administrative council^. At the same time, the privileges 
formerly possessed by the provincial proprietors, the remains 
of the Roman curiae, or of the more recently formed muni- 
cipalities that had grown up to replace them, were swept away 

• Contin. no; Zonaras, ii. 161. Ka2 ro^t v6\iov% Z\ roitt iroMri«oirt dyijfiijaai 
irtwciific€, ipotTQfy airbi c/t rd, Zucaarfipid^ ^817 kclL -njt roCroiy yv^ffiut ^axt^^i^ 
iKXtXomvkit wayrdwaaiv, *H filv olv irtpi tom kfucHntM leaX iiaBrmara rod BdpSa 
vwovbil d(i4waivo9. 

• Constant. Porphyr. Basilius, 161-163. 

• Liotus Novellae^ Uxviii., in the Corpus Juris Chilis, 

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as oflFensive to despotic power \ But the total abolition of 
municipal institutions by imperial edicti was certainly rather 
theoretical than practical. The long series of progressive 
alterations in society, which had destroyed the efficacy of the 
older municipalities, had replaced them by new societies and 
corporations having confined and local objects, too far beneath 
the sphere of action of the central administration to excite 
any jealousy on the part of those deputed to exercise the 
imperial power. The bishops also lost their position of de- 
fenders of the people, for as they were chosen by the sovereign, 
the dignitaries of the Byzantine church were remarkable for 
their servility to the civil power. So that both the senate and 
the people lost all political influence in the Roman empire 
about the same time, and under the Basilian dynasty the 
government approached more nearly to a pure despotism than 
at any earlier period. 

The promulgation of the Basilika may be considered as 
marking the complete union of all l^islative, executive, 
judicial, financial, and administrative power in the person of 
the emperor. The church was already reduced to complete 
submission to the imperial authority. Basil, therefore, may 
claim to be the emperor who established despotism as the 
constitution of the Roman empire. The divine right of the 
sovereign to rule as God might be pleased to enlighten his 
understanding and soften his heart, was henceforth th« recog- 
nised organic law of the Byzantine empire. 

The compilation of the laws of Justinian is one of the 
strangest examples of the manner in which sovereigns vitiate 
the most extensive and liberal reforms by their conservative 
prejudices. Justinian reconstructed the legislation of a Roman 
empire, in order to adapt it to the wants of the people who 
spoke Greek ; yet he restricted the benefit of his new code, 
by promulgating it in Latin, though that language had ceased 
to be in use among three quarters of his subjects. The 
conservative principles of the imperial government and the 
pride of the higher classes of Constantinople in their Roman 
origin, induced the emperor to cling to the use of the Latin 
language as marking their connection with past ages, and 
drawing a line of separation between the government and the 

^ Leonii Novellae, xlvi. zlvii. ; Contin. 76. 

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AJ). 867-586.] 

mass of the people. Justinian himself pronounced the con- 
demnation of his own conduct by publishing his latest laws in 
Greek, and thus leaving his legislation dispersed in sources 
promulgated in two different languages. 

A Greek school of legists, founded long before the time of 
Justinian, but which flourished during his reign, did much to 
remedy this defect, by translating the Latin body of the law. 
Greek translations of the Institutions, the Pandects, the Code, 
and the Edicts, as well as Greek commentaries on these works, 
soon replaced the original Latin texts, and became the autho- 
rities that guided the courts of law throughout the Eastern 
Empire. The decline of knowledge, and the anarchy that 
prevailed during the century in which the empire was ruled 
by the Heraclian dynasty, caused the translations of the larger 
works to be neglected, and the writings of commentators, who 
had published popular abridgments, to be generally consulted. 
The evil of this state of things was felt so strongly when 
Leo III. restored some degree of order throughout the empire, 
that, as we have already mentioned, he promulgated an official 
handbook of the law, called the Ecloga. From that time the 
subject of l^islative reform occupied the attention of the 
imperial government, as well as* of those professionally engaged 
in the administration of justice ; and it appears certain that 
Bardas had made considerable progress towards the execution 
of those legislative reforms which were promulgated by Basil I., 
and completed by Leo VI. Indeed, it appears probable that 
the project was conceived as early as the time of Theophilus, 
whose personal knowledge of the law was greater than was 
possessed by his successors who have gained a high place in 
history as law reformers. 

The precise share which the predecessors of Basil are 
entitled to claim in the legislative labours of the Basilian 
dynasty cannot be determined with exactitude, but that it is 
not inconsiderable, is evident from the internal evidence 
afforded by the works themselves. Certainly divine right to 
rule the state as emperor could never have rendered the 
Sclavonian groom, who had qualified for the throne as the 
boon-companion of Michael the Drunkard, a fit person to 
direct the progress of legislation. All that could be expected 
from him was, that he should leam to appreciate the import- 
ance of the subject, and adopt the labours of the jurisconsults 

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who had assisted Bardas. It seems, therefore, probable that 
he envied the popularity the Caesar had gained by his atten- 
tion to legal business, and understood fully that there was no 
surer mode of acquiring the goodwill of all classes than by 
becoming himself a law reformer. Basil, however, though 
eager to obtain the glory of publishing a new code, remained 
personally incapable of guiding the work. A consequence of 
his eagerness to obtain the desired end, and of his ignorance 
of what was necessary to the proper performance of the task, is 
apparent in the first legal work published by his authority, 
called the Procheiron, or manual of law. The primary object 
of this publication was to supplant the Ecloga of Leo III., in 
order to efface the memory of the reforms of the Iconoclasts ^ 
The Procheiron appears to have been promulgated as early as 
the year 870, and it bears marks of having been hurried into 
premature publicity ^. The first half of the work is executed 
in a completely different manner from the latter part. In the 
earlier titles, the texts borrowed from the Institutions, Pan- 
dects, Code, and Novels of Justinian, are arranged in r^fular 
order, and are followed by the modem laws ; but this well- 
arranged plan is abandoned in the latter titles, apparently 
in consequence of a sudden determination having been adopted 
to hurry forward the publication. The much-abused Ecloga 
of Leo III. was then adopted as the most available guide- 
book, and, in conjunction with the Institutes and Novels, 
became the principal source consulted. The Pandects and 
the Code were neglected, because they required too much 
time and study for their arrangement. 

This fact suggests the conclusion that a commission of 
jurisconsults had been named as revisers of the law, who had 
been sitting from the time of Bardas ; and these lawyers had 
systematically proceeded to compile a manual of the law in 
forty titles, and a new civil code or revision of the old law 
in sixty books, in which they had made considerable progress, 
when Basil suddenly hurried forward the premature publica- 
tion of the manual in the form it now bears. It is impossible 

* We must recollect that Basil was the colleague of Michael III. when the 
tomb of Constantine V.. the saint, so to speak, of the Iconoclasts, was destroyed, 
and we must connect this with the violent manner in which the Ecloga is criticised 
in the Procheiron. 

" For this date, see Mortreuil, Histoire du Droii Byzaniin, ii. 29, 30. 

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AJ>. 867-886.] 

that the same spirit can have directed the latter portion of the 
work which dictated the compilation of the earlier. The 
science of Bardas is visible in the one, the ignorance of Basil in 
the other. For many years Basil remained satisfied with his 
performance as a legislator, for he was unable to appreciate 
the l^al wants of the empire; but the subject was again 
forced on his attention by the confusion that prevailed in the 
sources of the law, to which the tribunals were still compelled 
to refer. 

At length, in the year 884, a new code, embracing the 
whole legislation of the empire in one work, was published 
under the title of the Revision of the Old Law. The respect 
paid to the laws of Rome was so deeply implanted in the 
minds of the people, that new laws, however superior they 
might have been, could not have insured the support, which 
was claimed by a legislation regarded as the legitimate repre- 
sentative of the Roman jurisprudence, clothed in a Greek dress. 
The code of Basil was nothing but a compilation from the 
Greek translations of Justinian's laws, and the commentaries 
on them which had received the sanction of the Byzantine 
tribunals and legal schools. But this revision of the old law 
was hurried forward to publicity on account of some special 
reason^ su^ested either by imperial vanity or accidental 
policy. In the Procheiron, Basil had announced that the 
revised code about to be promulgated consisted of sixty books, 
yet, when he published it, the work was divided into forty. 
This premature edition was, however, again revised by Leo VI.; 
and it is the new and more complete code published by that 
emperor in sixty books, as originally announced, which we 
now possess under the title of Basilika, or imperial laws ; but 
no perfect manuscript has been preserved ^. 

The object of the Basilian legislation was too simple not to 
have been long in agitation before the precise plan on which 
it was ultimately executed was adopted. The Basilika is 
merely a reunion, in one work, of all the sources of Roman 
law in vigour at the time, without any attempt to condense 
them . into clearer and more precise rules. Every law or 
maxim of jurisprudence actually in force, is arranged under 

' A new edition of the Basilika, in the imperfect state in which it has reached 
OS, has been lately published by HeimLach, in five quarto volumes. 


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Its own head In a series of books and titles, distributed so as 

to facilitate their use in the courts of law and chambers of 

counsel*. Some modern commentaries have been added to 

the work as we possess it, which appear not to have formed 

part of the original text. 

After the promulgation of the first edition of the Basilika, 
Basil published a second legal manual, to serve as an intro- 
duction to its study. It is called the Epanagoge, but it 
appears never to have attained the popularity of the Ecloga 
and the Procheiron ^. 

The Basilika remained the law of the Byzantine empire 
until its conquest by the Franks, and it continued in use as 
the national law of the Greeks at Nicaea, Constantinople, and 
Trebizond, and in the Morea, until they were conquered by 
the Ottomans. The want of a system of law growing up out 
of the social exigencies of the people, and interwoven in its 
creation with national institutions, is a serious defect in Greek 
civilization. Since the time of the Achaian league, the Greeks 
have not possessed a national government, and they have 
never possessed a national system of laws ; hence their com- 
munal institutions and municipal rights have received only 
such protection as the church could afford them ; and even 
the church was generally the subservient instrument of the 
Roman, Byzantine, and Turkish governments. 

Basil found the army in a much better state than the 
financial administration ; for, even amidst the disorders of 
Michael's reign, measures had been taken to maintain the 
discipline of the troops. Basil had, consequently, only to 
maintain the army on the footing on which he found it. 
Being personally without either military experience or scientific 
knowledge, he can only be considered responsible for the 
general direction of the military affairs of his reign ; and in 
this he does not appear to have displayed much talent. He 
allowed the Saracens to take Syracuse, while he kept the 
sailors of the imperial navy employed in digging the founda- 
tions of a new church, and the ships in transporting marbles 
and building materials for its construction ^ Basil, indeed, 

' Leo^s edict at the commencement of Heimbach*s edition of the Basilika. 
* The Epanagoge has been published with the Ecloga by Zadiaria. CoUeetio 
librorum Juris Graeco-Romani, Lipsiae, 1853. 
f Leo Gramm. 473. 

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AJ). 867-886.] 

like all his predecessors, appeared more than once at the head 
of his armies in the East; for this was a duty which no 
emperor of Constantinople since Leo III. had ventured to 
neglect It is probable, however, that his presence was 
calculated rather to restrain than to excite the activity of his 
generals, who were sure to be rendered responsible for any 
want of success, and to be deprived of every merit in case of 
victory; while if they eclipsed the glory of the emperor by 
any brilliant personal exploits, they might become objects of 

The principal military operation of Basil's reign was the 
war he carried on with the Paulicians. This sect first made 
its appearance in Armenia about the middle of the seventh 
century, in the reign of Constans II., and it was persecuted 
by that emperor. Constantine IV. (Pogonatus), Justinian II., 
and Leo III., all endeavoured to extirpate the heresy as one 
which threatened the unity of the church ; for unity in reli- 
gious opinions was then regarded as the basis of the prosperity 
of the empire, and a portion of its political constitution^. 
Constantine V., after conquering Melitene, transported num- 
bers of Asiatic colonists into Thrace, many of whom were 
converts to the Paulician doctrines ^ Under this emperor 
and his immediate successors they enjoyed toleration, and 
made many converts in Pontus, Cappadocia, Phrygia, and 
Pisidia ^ Nicephorus allowed them all the rights of citizens, 
and they continued to be loyal subjects, until Michael I. com- 
menced persecuting them in the most barbarous manner. 
This circumstance, though it affords the orthodox historian 
Theophanes great delight, ultimately prepared the way for 
the depopulation of Asia Minor *. These cruelties continued 
under Leo V., until some of the Paulicians, rising in rebellion, 
slew the bishop of Neocaesarea, and the imperial commis- 
sioners engaged in torturing them, and withdrew into the 
province of Melitene, under the protection of the caliph. 
From this period they are often found forming the vanguard 
of the Saracen invasions into the south-eastern provinces of 

* The Montanists, in the edict of Leo HI. (Theoph. 336), are supposed by 
Baronias to be Manichaeans, which was then often an epithet for Paulicians. 
IfoioM in Tkeophantm, p. 620. See p. 34 of this volume. 

* Theoph. 354 and 360. See pp. 50 and 60 of this volume. 

* Theoph. 413, 

* Ibid. 419. 

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the Byzantine empire. Under Michael II. and Theophilus 
some degree of religious toleration was restored, and the 
Paulicians within the bounds of the empire were allowed 
to hold their religious opinions in tranquillity. But their 
persecution recommenced during the regency of Theodora; 
and the cruelty with which they were treated drove such 
numbers into rebellion, that they were enabled to found an 
independent republic, as has been already mentioned *. If we 
believe the friends of the Paulicians, they were strict Chris- 
tians, who reverenced the teaching of St. Paul, and proposed 
him as their sole guide and legislator ; but if we credit their 
enemies, they were Manichaeans, who merged Christianity 
in their heretical opinions. 

The little republic founded by the Paulicians at Tephrike, 
against which the armies of the Emperor Michael III. con- 
tended without any decided success, though it owed its 
foundation to religious opinion, soon became a place of refuge 
for all fugitives from the Byzantine empire ; and its existence 
as a state, on the frontier of a bigoted and oppressive govern- 
ment, became a serious danger to the emperors of Constan- 
tinople. Chrysochir, the son-in-law of Karbeas, succeeded 
his father in the command of the armed bands of Tephrike, 
and supported his army by plundering the Byzantine pro- 
vinces, as the Danes or Normans about the same time main- 
tained themselves by their expeditions in France and England. 
The number of prisoners taken by the Paulicians was so great 
that Basil found himself compelled to send an embassy to 
Tephrike, for the purpose of ransoming his subjects. Petrus 
Siculus, the ambassador, remained at Tephrike about nine 
months, but was unable to effect any peaceable arrangement 
with Chrysochir. He has, however, left us a valuable account 
of the Paulician community ^ During his residence at Teph- 
rike, he discovered that the Paulicians had sent ambassadors 
into Bulgaria, to induce the king of that newly converted 
country to form an alliance with them, and missionaries to 
persuade the people to propagate their doctrines, which were 

' See p. 169 of this volume. 

* Petn Siculi Historia Mnniehaeorum seu Paulieianorum. Getting. 1846. Photins* 
work, Libri iv. contra Manichaeos^ in Wolf*s Anecdota Graica, contains a refiitatioD 
of the doctrines attributed to the Paulicians, as well as of those professed bf 

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U). 867-886.] 

prevalent in some districts of Thrace. The ravages committed 
by the Paulician troops, the bad success of the embassy of 
Peter Siculus, and the danger that Chrysochir might extend 
his power by new alliances, determined Basil at length to 
make a powerful effort for the destruction of this alarming 
enemy. It was evident that nothing short of extermination 
could put an end to their plundering expeditions. 

In 871, Basil made his first attack on the Paulicians ; but, 
after destroying some of their villages, he suffered a severe 
check, and lost a considerable portion of his army, he himself 
only escaping in consequence of the valour of Theophylactus, 
the father of the future emperor, Romanus I., who by this 
exploit brought himself forward in the army*. Fortunately 
for Basil, the repeated seditions of the Turkish mercenaries at 
Bagdad had weakened the power of the caliphate ; a succes- 
sion of revolutions caused the deposition and murder of several 
caliphs within the space of a few years, and some of the 
distant provinces of the immense empire of the Abassides had 
already established independent governments 2. The Pauli- 
cians, therefore, could obtain no very important aid from the 
Saracens, who, as we are informed by Basil's son, the Emperor 
Leo VI., in his work on military tactics, were regarded as the 
best soldiers in the world, and far superior both to the Bulga- 
rians and Franks. Basil found little difficulty in driving all 
the plundering bands of the Paulicians back into their own 
territory; but it was dangerous to attempt the siege of 
Tephrike as long as the enemy could assemble an army in 
the frontier towns of the caliph's dominions with which they 
might operate on the rejw of the besiegers. The empires of 
Constantinople and Bagdad were at war, though hostilities 
had for some time been languidly carried on. Basil now 
resolved to capture or destroy the fortified towns which 
afforded aid to the Paulicians. After ravaging the territory 
of Melitene, he sent his general, Christophoros, with a division 
of the army to capture Sozopetra and Samosata ; while he 
himself crossed the Euphrates, and laid waste the country as 

» For the first campaign against the Paulicians. see Symeon Mag. (455). Georg. 
Mon. (544)» and Leo Gramm. (471); and for the second, compare Constant. 
Porphyr. {Basilius, 166), and Cedreniis (570). 

* From the year 861 to R70 the throne of Bagdad was occupied by five caliphs, 
three of whom were dethroned Egypt and Chorasan rebelled during this period, 
and several independent dynasties arose. 

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far as the Asanias. On his return, the emperor fought a 
battle with the emir of Melitene, who had succeeded in col- 
lecting an army to dispute his progress. The success of this 
battle was not so decided as to induce Basil to besiege either 
Melitene or Tephrike, and he returned to Constantinople, 
leaving his general to prosecute the war. In the mean time, 
Chrysochir, unable to maintain his troops without plunder, 
invaded Cappadocia, but was overtaken by Christophoros at 
Agranes, where his movements were circumscribed by the supe- 
rior military skill of the Byzantine general. Chrysochir found 
himself compelled to retreat, with an active enemy watching 
his march. Christophoros soon surprised the Paulician camp, 
and Chrysochir was slain in the battle. His head was sent to 
Constantinople, that the Emperor Basil might fulfil a vow he 
had made that he would pierce it with three arrows. Tephrike 
was taken not long after, and destroyed. The town of Cata- 
batala, to which the Paulicians retired after the loss of Tephrike, 
was captured in the succeeding campaign, and the Paulician 
troops, unable to continue their plundering expeditions, either 
retreated into Armenia or dispersed. Many found means of 
entering the Byzantine service, and were employed in southern 
Italy against the African Saracens*. 

The war with the Saracens continued, though it was not 
prosecuted with vigour by either party. In the year 876, the 
Byzantine troops gained possession of the fortress of Lulu, 
the bulwark of Tarsus, which alarmed the Caliph Almutamid 
for the safety of his possessions in Cilicia to such a degree, 
that he entrusted their defence to his powerful vassal, Touloun, 
the viceroy of Egypt ^. In the following year the Emperor 
Basil, hoping to extend his conquests, again appeared at the 
head of the army of Asia, and establi^ed his head-quarters at 
Caesarea. His object was to drive the Saracens out of Cilicia, 
but he only succeeded in ravaging the country beyond the 
passes of Mount Taurus up to the suburbs of Germanicia, 
Adana, and Tarsus, without being able to gain possession of 
any of these cities ^. After the emperor's return to Constan- 
tinople, the commander-in-chief of the army, Andrew the 
Sclavonian, continued to ravage the Saracen territory, and 

* Constant. Porphyr. Basilius, 192. 

• Constant. Poiphyr. Basiliut, 172; Weil, Geschickte der CkaU/m, ii. 472. 
» Constant. Porphyr. Basiliust 173; Symeon Mag. 476; Cedrenus, 574. 

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ij>. 867-886.] 

destroyed an army sent to oppose him on the banks of the 
river Podandos. This defeat was, however, soon avenged by 
the Mohammedans, who routed Stypiotes, the successor of 
Andrew, with great loss, as he was preparing to besiege 
Tarsus. In the thirteenth year of his reign (780), Basil again 
invaded the caliphate, but failed in an attempt to take 
Germanicia. The war was subsequently allowed to languish, 
though the Saracens made several plundering expeditions 
against the Christians, both by land and sea ; hut the fortress 
of Lulu, and some other castles commanding the passes of 
Mount Taurus, remained in the possession of the Byzantine 

The Saracens of Africa had for some time past devastated 
the shores of every Christian country bordering on the 
Mediterranean, and plundered the islands of the Ionian Sea 
and the Archipelago as regularly as the Paulicians had 
ravaged Asia Minor. Basil was hardly seated on the throne 
before an embassy from the Sclavonians of Dalmatia arrived 
at Constantinople, to solicit his aid against these corsairs 
A Saracen fleet of thirty-six ships had attacked Dalmatia, 
in which a few Koman cities still existed, maintaining a 
partial independence among the Sclavonian tribes, who 
occupied the country. Several towns were taken by the 
Saracens, and Ragusa, a place of considerable commercial 
importance, was closely besieged^. Basil lost no time in 
sending assistance to the inhabitants. A fleet of a hundred 
vessels, under the admiral Niketas Oryphas, was prepared for 
sea with all possible expedition : and the Saracens, hearing of 
his approach, hastily abandoned the siege of Ragusa, after 
they had invested it for fifteen months. The expedition of 
Oryphas re-established the imperial influence in the maritime 
districts of Dalmatia, and obtained from the Sclavonians a 
direct recognition of the emperor's sovereignty. They re- 
tained their own government, and elected their magistrates ; 
and their submission to the Byzantine empire was purchased 
by their being permitted to receive a regular tribute from 
several Roman cities, which, in consideration of this payment, 
retained possession of some districts on the mainland without 

* Constant. Porphyr. Basiliu$, 179. The towns taken by the Saracens were 
Bouluma Rosa, and the lower Dekateras. Constant. Porphyr. 2># Adm, Imp, 
c. 30. 

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[Bk.n.Ch.I. §1. 

the neighbouring Sclavonians exercising any jurisdiction over 
these possessions. The Roman inhabitants in the islands on 
the Dalmatian coast had preserved their alliance to the 
Eastern emperors, and maintained themselves independent of 
the Sclavonians, who conquered and colonized the mainland 
in the reign of Heraclius. They received their governors and 
judges from Constantinople *. 

As early as the year 842, two rival princes, of Lombard 
race, who disputed the possession of the duchy of Beneven- 
tum, solicited assistance from the Saracens ; and the Infidels^ 
indifferent to the claims of either, but eager for plunder, 
readily took part in the quarrel. A body of Saracens from 
Sicily, which arrived for the purpose of assisting one of the 
Christian claimants, resolved to secure a firm establishment in 
Italy. To effect this they stormed the city of Bari, though 
it belonged to their own ally. At Bari they formed a camp, 
and made it their station for plundering the possessions of the 
Frank and Byzantine empires on the coast of the Adriatic. 
In 846, other bands of Sicilian Saracens landed at the 
mouth of the Tiber, and plundered the churches of St 
Peter and St. Paul, both then without the walls of Rome. 
Indeed, the * mistress of the world ' was only saved from 
falling into the hands of the Mohammedans by the troops of 
the Emperor Louis II. (850). Shortly after, Pope Leo IV. 
fortified the suburb of the Vatican, and thus placed the church 
of St. Peter in security in the new quarter of the town called 
the Leonine city'^. From this period the ravages of the 
Saracens in Italy were incessant, and the proprietors who 
dwelt in the country were compelled to build fortified towers, 
strong enough to resist any sudden attack, and so high as to 
be beyond the reach of fire kindled at their base. The 
manners formed by this state of savage insecurity coloured 
the history of Italy with dark stains for several centuries. 
In the year 867, the Emperor Louis II. exerted himself to 
restrain the ravages of the Saracens. He laid siege to Bari, 
and sent ambassadors to Constantinople to solicit the co- 
operation of a Byzantine fleet. The fleet of Oryphas, 

* Constant. Porphyr. Be Adm. Imp, c. 30, p. 146, edit. Bonn. The tribute paid 
by the Roman cities to the Sclavonians was as follows: Aspalathus (Spalato), 
200 nomismata or gold byzants; Tetrangurium (Trau\ Opsara. Aibe, Bekla, each 
100; Jadera (near Zara), no: and Ragusa, for its rural district, 73. 

■ A.D. 853. Voltaire, Annales de V Empire^ a.d. 847 ; Essai sur les Mmurs^ c a8. 

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AJ). 867-886.] 

strengthened by the naval forces of the Dalmatian cities, was 
ordered to assist the operations of the Western emperor ; but 
the pride of the court of Constantinople (more sensitive than 
usual) prevented the conclusion of a treaty with a sovereign 
who claimed to be treated as emperor of the West^. In 
February, 871, Louis carried the city of Bari by assault, and 
put the garrison to the sword. The Franks and Greeks 
disputed the honour of the conquest, and each attempted to 
turn it to their own profit, so that the war was continued in a 
desultory manner, without obtaining any decided results. 
The cultivators of the soil were in turn plundered by the 
Lombard princes, the Saracen corsairs, and the German and 
Byzantine emperors. The Saracens again attacked Rome, 
and compelled Pope John VIIL to purchase their retreat by 
engaging to pay an annual tribute of 25,000 marks of silver. 
The south of Italy was a scene of political confusion. The 
Dukes of Naples, Amalfi, and Salerno joined the Saracens 
in plundering the Roman territory; but Pope John VIIL, 
placing himself at the head of the Roman troops, fought 
both with Christians and Mohammedans, won battles, and cut 
off the heads of his prisoners, without the slightest reference 
to the canons of the church. The bishop of Naples, as bold a 
warrior as the Pope, dethroned his own brother, and put out 
bis eyes, on the pretext that he had allied himself with the 
Infidels ; yet, when the bishop had possessed himself of his 
brother's dukedom, he also kept up communications with the 
Saracens, and aided them in plundering the territory of 
Rome. This lawless state of affairs induced the Italians to 
turn for security to the Byzantine empire. The troops of 
Basil rendered themselves masters of Bari without diflficulty, 
and the extent of the Byzantine province in southern Italy 
was greatly extended by a series of campaigns, in which 
Nicephorus Phokas, grandfather of the emperor of the same 
name, distinguished himself by his prudent conduct and able 
tactics 2. The Saracens were at last expelled from all their 

' The naval force of the Sclavonians in the Adriatic was not inconsiderable. 
The Chrovatians alone had eighty gaUeys (sagenas), cafrying each forty men, 
and one hundred konduras or boats, carrying twenty, besides merchant-ships. 
Though a commercial people, they then abstained from piracy, which we know, 
from Venetian history, all the Sclavonians in the Adriatic were addicted to at 
a later period. Constant. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. c. 30, p. 150, edit. Bonn. 

• The £mi>eror Leo VI., in his work on military tactics, cites the campaign of 
Nicephorus Phokas, in which he took Tarsus, as an example of able generalship. 

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possessions in Calabria. The Byzantine government formed 

its possessions into a province called the Theme of Longo- 

bardia, but this province constantly varied in extent ; Gaeta> 

Naples, Sorrento, and Amalfi acknowledged allegiance to the 

Emperor of Constantinople, but his authority was often 

very little respected in these cities. 

While Basil was successful in extending his power in Italy, 
the Saracens revenged themselves in Sicily by the conquest of 
Syracuse, which fell into their hands in 878, and placed them 
in possession of the whole island. The city, though besi^ed 
on the land side by the Saracens established in Sicily, and 
blockaded by a fleet from Africa, made a gallant defence, 
and might have been relieved had the emperor shown more 
activity, or intrusted the force prepared for its relief to a com- 
petent officer. The expedition he seat, though it was delayed 
until nothing could be effected without movements, 
wasted two months in the port of Monemvasia, where it re- 
ceived the news of the fall of Syracuse. The loss of the last 
Greek city in Sicily was deeply felt by the people of the 
Byzantine empire, on account of its commercial importance ; 
and it was reported that the news of so great a calamity to 
the Christian world was first made known to the inhabitants 
of Greece by an assembly of demons, who met in the forest of 
Helos, on the banks of the Eurotas, to rejoice at the event, 
where their revels were witnessed by a Laconian shepherd ^ 
Satan seems to have treated the ruin of a Greek city as a 
matter of more importance than the orthodox emperor Basil 
treated it. The daring with which the Saracens carried on 
their naval expeditions over the Mediterranean at this period 
is a remarkable feature in the state of society. The attacks 
of the Danes and Normans on the coasts of England and 
France were not more constant nor more terrible. 

Some of these expeditions deserve to be noticed, in order 
to point out the great destruction of capital and the dis- 
organization of society they caused. For some years they 
threatened the maritime districts of the Eastern Empire with 
as great a degree of insecurity as that from which they had 
been delivered by Leo III. In the year 881, the emir of 

Institutions Militaires de VEmpereur Lion U Philosopher traduites par M. Joly de 
Maizeroy, ii. 75. 
* Constant. Porphyr. Basilius^ 191 ; Cedrenus, ii. 585. 


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Aj). 867-886.] 

Tarsus, with a fleet of thirty large ships, laid siege to Chalcis, 
on the Euripus ; but Oiniates, the general of the theme of Hel- 
las, assembled the troops in his province, the emir was killed 
in an attempt to storm the place, and the Saracen expedition 
was completely defeated*. Shortly after this, the Saracens of 
Crete ravaged the islands of the Archipelago with a fleet of 
twenty-seven large ships and a number of smaller vessels^. 
Entering the Hellespont, they plundered the island of Procon- 
nesus ; but they were overtaken and defeated by the imperial 
fleet under Oryphas. Undismayed by their losses, they fitted 
out a new fleet, and recommenced their ravages, hoping to 
avoid the Byzantine admiral by doubling Cape Taenarus, and 
plundering the western shores of Greece. Niketas Oryphas, 
on visiting the port of Kenchreae, found that the corsairs were 
already cruising off" the entrance of the Adriatic. He promptly 
transported his galleys over the isthmus of Corinth by the 
ancient tram-road, which had been often used for the same 
purpose in earlier times, and which was still kept in such a 
state of repair that all his vessels were conveyed from sea to 
sea in a single night^ The Saracens, surprised by the sudden 
arrival of a fleet from a quarter where they supposed there 
was no naval force, fought with less courage than usual, and 
lost all their ships. The cruelty with which the captives, 
especially the renegades, were treated, was to the last degree 
inhuman, and affords sad proof of the widespread misery and 
deep exasperation their previous atrocities had produced, as 
well as of the barbarity of the age. No torture was spared by 
the Byzantine authorities*. Shortly after this an African 
fleet of sixty vessels, of extraordinary size, laid waste Zante 
and Cephallenia. Nasar, the Byzantine admiral, who suc- 
ceeded Niketas Oryphas, while in pursuit of this fleet, touched 
at Methone to re-victual ; but at that port all his rowers 
deserted, and his ships were detained until the general of the 
Peloponnesian theme replaced them by a levy of Mardattes 

* Constant. Porphyr. Basilius, 184; Cedrenus,ii. 580. 
' Constant. Porphyr. Basilius, 185. 

' The breadth of the isthmus is about four geographical miles— 5950 metres. 
Zonaras (ii. 171) calls the vessels triremes, but they were certainly with only two 
banks of oars, and were probably the kind of galley called dromones. [This 
roadway was called in classical times the aIoKkom, and the expression used for 
transporting vessels across was vvtptpipnv rdv ia0fi6y. Thuc viii. 7. Ed.] 

* Constant. Porphyr. Basilius^ 186. 

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and other inhabitants of the peninsula*. The Byzantine naval 

force, even after this contrariety, was again victorious over the 

Saracens ; and the war of pillage was transferred into Sicily, 

where the Greeks laid waste the neighbourhood of Palermo, 

and captured a number of valuable merchant-ships, with such 

an abundant supply of oil that it was sold at Constantinople 

for an obolos the litra. 

During these wars Basil recovered possession of the island 
of Cyprus, but was only able to retain possession of it for 
seven years, when the Saracens again reconquered it^. 

Much of Basil's reputation as a wise sovereign is due to his 
judicious adoption of administrative reforms, called for by the 
disorders introduced into the government by the neglect of 
Michael III. His endeavours to lighten the burden of tax- 
ation, without decreasing the public revenues, was then a rare 
merit. But the eulogies which his grandson and other flat- 
terers have heaped on his private virtues deserve but little 
credit. The court certainly maintained more outward decency 
than in the time of his predecessor, but there are many proofs 
that the reformation was merely external. Thekla, the sister 
of the Emperor Michael III., who had received the imperial 
crown from her father Theophilus, had been the concubine of 
Basil, with the consent of her brother. After Basil assas- 
sinated the brother, he neglected and probably feared the 
sister, but she consoled herself with other lovers. It happened 
that on some occasioa a person employed ia the household of 

' MardaTtes are mentioned by Constant. Porphyr. {Basilius, 187), but whether 
they were so called because they were descendants of a Syrian colony is not 
certain. Probably the Mainates are meant. [The idea of identifying the Mardaltes 
and Mainates originated with Fa41merayer (Ge<ehichte der Halbimel Morea, i. 208), 
and has very little to be said in its favour. H©pf remarks (Brockhaus' GriecieH- 
land, vol. vi. p. 130) that we hear of a town of Maina before a tribe of Mainates 
is mentioned, and that the tribe probably derived its name from the town. ^Iiat 
we know of the Mardaites is as follows. In the time of Constantine Pogooatos 
this tribe occupied the passes of the Lebanon, and became subjects of the Byzantine 
Empire (Cedrenus, i. 765, edit. Bonn). Justinian II., as a condition of peace 
with the caliphs, removed a large part of this colony, thereby destroying an 
important bulwark of the eastern frontier, and planted a number of them in 
Armenia {ibid. 771). We subsequently hear of others— apparently some of those 
removed at this time— in the Kibyrraiote theme in the south of Asia Minor 
(Constant. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. p. 229, edit. Bpnn^ and in the European 
themes of Peloponnesus, Nicopolis, and Cephallenia {De Caertmon. p. 665, edit 
Bonn). See Rambaud {V Empire grec au dixieme Siecle, pp. 213, 214), who is 
disposed to identify them with the Maronites of the Lebanon, and the tribe of 
Mirdites in northern Albania. I do not discover that there is much to support 
this last identification beyond the similarity of name. Ed.] 

* Constant Porphyr. De Thematibm, i. § 15. 

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iU). 867-886.] 

Thekla waited on the emperor, who, with the rude facetious- 

ness he inherited from the stable-yard, asked the domestic, 

*Who lives with your mistress at present?* The individual 

(Neatokomites) was immediately named, for shame was out 

of the question in such society. But the jealousy of Basil was 

roused by this open installation of a successor in the favours 

of one who had once occupied a place on the throne he had 

usurped, and he ordered Neatokomites to be seized, scourged, 

and immured for life in a monastery. It is said that he 

was base enough to order Thekla to be ill-treated, and to 

confiscate great part of her private fortuned The Empress 

Eudocia Ingerina avenged Thekla, by conducting herself 

on the throne in* a manner more pardonable in the mistress 

of Michael the Drunkard than in the wife of Basil. When 

her amours were discovered, the emperor prudently avoided 

scandal, by compelling her lover to retire privately into a 


The most interesting episode in the private history of 

Basil is the friendship of Danielis, the Greek lady of Patrae. 

As she had laid the foundation of his wealth while he was 

only a servant of Theophilitzes, we may believe that she was 

eager to see him when she heard that he was seated on the 

imperial throne. But though she might boast of having been 

the first to perceive his merits, she must have doubted 

whether she would be regarded as a welcome visitor at 

court. Basil, however, was not ungrateful to those who had 

assisted him in his poverty, and he sent for the son of his 

benefactor, and raised him to the rank of protospatharios. 

The widow also received an invitation to visit Constantinople, 

* This same Joannes Neatokomites had of old been a rival of Basil, for he had 
attempted to put the Caesar Bardas on his guard against the conspiracy by which 
he lost his life. Leo Gramm. 465. Thelda has been usually called the sister 
of Basil and the concubine of Michael III. Gibbon has adopted this view, for 
he says, ' Basil was raised and supported by a disgraceful marriage with a royal 
concubine (Eudocia), and the dishonour of his sister (Thekla), who succeeded 
to her place:* vol. vi. p. 97. Le Beau (xiii. 284) is more decided and more 
detailed. Georg. Mon. (545), in recounting the anecdote, certainly calls Thekla 
the sister of the emperor, and from this it is inferred she must have been the 
sister of the reigning emperor Basil ; but a comparison of Leo Gramm. (464 and 
471). — the Latin translation calls her the sister of Michael, without this being 
said in the Greek text, — and especially Symeon Mag. (446) and Georg Mon. 
(536). prove that she was the sister of Michael III. She had been compelled 
to adopt the monastic dress, to deprive her of the title of Empress, which she had 
received from her father Theophilus. Both gold and silver coins of Thekla exist. 
Saulcy, Eaai^ 192 ; Sabatier, Deter iption genSrtdt des monnaies byzantirus, ii. 100. 

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and see her adopted son seated on the throne — which, it was 
said, she had long believed he was destined by heaven to fill ; 
for it had been reported that, when Basil first entered the 
cathedral of St. Andrew at Patrae, a monk was seized with a 
prophetic vision, and proclaimed that he was destined to 
become emperor. This prophecy Danielis had heard and 
believed. The invitation must have afforded her the highest 
gratification, as a proof of her own discernment in selecting 
one who possessed affection and gratitude, as well as great 
talents and divine favour. The old lady was the possessor of 
a princely fortune, and her wealth indicates that the state 
of society in the Peloponnesus was not very dissimilar in the 
ninth century from what it had been in the first centuries of 
our era, under the Roman government, when Caius Antonius 
and Eurykles were proprietors of whole provinces, and 
Herodes Atticus possessed riches that an emperor might 
have envied \ 

The lady Danielis set off from Patrae in a litter or covered 
couch, carried on the shoulders of ten slaves ; and the train 
which followed her, destined to relieve these litter-bearers, 
amounted to three hundred persons. When she reached 
Constantinople, she was lodged in the palace of Magnaura 
appropriated for the reception of princely guests. The rich 
presents she had prepared for the emperor astonished the 
inhabitants of the capital, for no foreign monarch had ever 
offered gifts of equal value to a Byzantine sovereign. The 
slaves that bore the gifts were themselves a part of the 
present, and were all distinguished for their youth, beauty, 
and accomplishments. Four hundred young men, one hun- 
dred eunuchs, and one hundred maidens, formed the living 
portion of this magnificent offering. A hundred pieces of the 
richest coloured drapery, one hundred pieces of soft woollen 
cloth, two hundred pieces of linen, and one hundred of 
cambric, so fine that each piece could be enclosed in the 
joint of a reed. To all this a service of cups, dishes, and 
plates of gold and silver was added 2. Danielis found that 

* Compare vol. i., Greece under the Romans, p. 66. 

* The Emperor Constantine Porphjrrogenitus, who knew something about the 
matter, says that the old lady knew that eunudis are collected about the conrt 
like blue-bottle flies round a sheep-fold; p. 195. A curious dissertation might 
be written as a conuaentary on the presents. 

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A.D. 867-886.] 

the emperor had constructed a magnificent church as an 
expiation for the murder of his benefactor, Michael III. 
She sent orders to the Peloponnesus to manufacture carpets 
of unusual size, in order to cover the whole floor, and protect 
the rich mosaic pavement, in which a peacock with outspread 
tail surpassed every similar work of art by the extreme 
brilliancy of its colouring. Before the widow quitted Con- 
stantinople, she settled a considerable portion of her estates in 
Greece on her son, the protospatharios, and on her adopted 
child the emperor, in joint property. 

After Basil's deaths she again visited Constantinople ; her 
own son was also dead, so she constituted the Emperor 
Leo VI. her sole heir. On quitting the capital for the last 
time, she desired that the protospathar Zenobios might be 
despatched to the Peloponnesus, for the purpose of preparing 
a raster of her extensive estates and immense property. 
She died shortly after her return ; and even the imperial 
officers were amazed at the amount of her wealth. The 
quantity of gold coin, gold and silver plate, works of art in 
bronze, furniture, rich stuffs in linen, cotton, wool, and silk, 
cattle and slaves, palaces and fj^trms, formed an inheritance 
that astonished even an emperor of Constantinople. The 
slaves, of which the Emperor Leo became the proprietor, 
were so numerous that he ordered three thousand to be 
enfranchised and sent to the theme of Longobardia, as Apulia 
was then called, where they were put in possession of land, 
which they cultivated as serfs. After the payment of many 
l^^cies, and the division of a part of the landed property, 
according to the dispositions of the testament, the emperor 
remained possessor of eighty farms or villages. The notice 
of this inheritance furnishes a curious glimpse into the condi- 
tion of society in Greece during the latter period of the ninth 
century, which is the period when the Greek race began to 
recover a numerical superiority and prepare for the con- 
solidation of its political ascendancy over the Sclavonian 
colonists in the Peloponnesus. Unfortunately, history sup- 
plies us with no contemporary facts that point out the 
precise causes of the diminution of the relative numbers of the 
Sclavonians and the rapid increase in the absolute numbers 
of the Greek agricultural population. We are left to seek for 
explanations of these facts in the general laws which regulate 

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the progress of population and produce vicissitudes in the 
state of society. 

The steps by which Basil mounted the throne were never 
forgotten by political and military adventurers, who con- 
sidered the empire a fit prize for a successful conspirator. 
John Kurkuas, a patrician of great wealth, who commanded 
the Ikanates, expected to seize the crown as a lawful prize, 
and engaged sixty-six of the leading men in the public 
administration to participate in his design. The plot was 
revealed to Basil by some of the conspirators, who perceived 
they could gain more by a second treachery than by persist- 
ing in their first treason. Kurkuas was seized, and his eyes 
were put out : the other conspirators were scourged in the 
hippodrome ; their heads were shaved, their beards burned off, 
and after being paraded through the capital they were exiled, 
and their estates confiscated. The clemency of Basil in 
inflicting these paternal punishments, instead of exacting the 
penalties imposed by the law of treason, is lauded by his 
interested historians. The fate of Kurkuas, however, only 
claims our notice, because he was the father of John Kurkuas, 
a general whom the Byzantine writers consider as a hero 
worthy to be compared with Trajan and Belisarius. Kurkuas 
was also the great-grandfather of the Emperor John Zimiskes, 
one of the ablest soldiers who ever occupied the throne of 
Constantinople ^. 

Though Basil founded the longest dynasty that ruled the 
Byzantine empire, the race proceeded from a corrupt source. 
Constantine, the son of Basil's first wife, Maria, was r^p^rded 
with much affection by his father, and received the imperial 
crown in the year 868, but died about the year 879. The 
loss was severely felt by the emperor, who expressed an eager 
desire to be assured that his favourite child enjoyed eternal 
felicity. The abbot Theodoros Santabaren took advantage 
of this paternal solicitude to impose on the emperor's super- 
stition and credulity. A phantom, which bore the likeness of 
Constantine, met the emperor while he was hunting, and 
galloped towards him, until it approached so near that Basil 
could perceive the happy expression of his son's face. It then 
faded from his sight ; but the radiant aspect of the vision 

* Constant. Porphyr. BasUius, 172 ; Symeon Mag. 460. 

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AJ>. 867-886.] 

satisfied the father that his deceased son was received to 

Leo, the eldest child of Eudocia, was generally believed to 
be the son of Michael the Drunkard ; and though Basil had 
conferred on him the imperial crown in his infancy (a.D. 870), 
he seems never to have regarded him with feelings of affection. 
It would seem he entertained the common opinion con- 
cerning the parentage of Leo. The latter years of Basil were 
clouded with suspicion of his heir, who he feared might avenge 
the murder of Michael, even at the risk of becoming a parri- 
cide. Whether truly or not, young Leo was accused of 
plotting against Basil's life before he was sixteen years of 
age^. The accusation was founded on the discovery of a 
dagger concealed in the boot of the young prince, while he 
was in attendance on his father at a hunting-party, when 
Byzantine etiquette demanded that he should be unarmed. 
The historians who wrote under the eye of Leo's son, Con- 
stantine Porphyrogenitus, pretend that the abbot Theodores 
Santabaren persuaded Leo to conceal the weapon for his own 
defence, and then informed Basil that his son was armed to 
attempt his assassination. The charge underwent a full 
examination, during which the young emperor was deprived 
of the insignia of the imperial rank ; but the result of the 
investigation must have proved his innocence, for, in spite of 
the suspicions rooted in BasiFs mind, he was restored to his 
rank as heir-apparent ^. 

The cruelty displayed by Basil in his latter days loosens 
the tongues of his servile historians, and indicates that he 
never entirely laid aside the vices of his earlier years. While 
engaged in hunting, to which he was passionately devoted, 
a stag that had been brought to bay rushed at him, and, 
striking its antlers into his girdle, dragged him from his horse. 
One of the attendants drew the hunting-knife, and, cutting the 

* Georg. Mod. (541), Leo Gramm. (468), and Zonaras (ii. 166), indicate that 
Leo was considered the son of Michael III. Symeon Mag. 455. Georg. Mon. 
(544) and Leo Gramm. (471) S(^eak of Alexander as the legitimate child of Basil 
in opposition to Leo. Leo was crowned 6th January 870. Krug, 39. 

* Ihe people of Thessalonica still show a tower, in which they say Leo was 
confined during the time he was deprived of the imperial title. I could not 
succeed in obtaining permission to visit it. Perhaps some Byzantine inscription 
in Uie walls has caused the tradition. A private English traveUer, who has 
neither wealth nor title, does not meet with the same facilities in literary researches 
as a foreigner. 


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[Bk II.Ch.I.§l 

girdle, saved the emperor's life; but the suspicious despot, 

fearing an attempt at assassination, ordered his faithful servant 

to be immediately decapitated. The shock he received from 

the stag brought on a fever, which terminated his eventfal 

life, and he ended his reign, as he had commenced it, by the 

murder of a benefactor. Though he was a judicious and able 

sovereign, he has been unduly praised, because he was one of 

the most orthodox emperors of Constantinople in the opinion 

of the Latin as well as of the Gre^k church ^. 

Sect. II.— Leo VI. {the Philosopher), A.D. 886-91!!. 

Character and court of Leo VI. — Ecclesiastical administration. — LegislatioQ — 
Saracen war. — Taking of Thessalonica. — Bulgarian war. 

Leo the Philosopher gave countenance to the rumour that 
he was the son of Michael III. by one of the first acts of his 
reign. He ordered the body of the murdered emperor to be 
transported from Chrysopolis, where it had been interred by 
Theodora, and entombed it with great ceremony in the Church 
of the Holy Apostles. 

In every characteristic of a sovereign Leo differed from 
Sasil, and almost every point of difference was to the dis- 
advantage of the Philosopher. The ease with which the 
throne was retained by a man such as Basil had been before 
he became sole emperor, is explained, when we see a trifling 
pedant like Leo ruling the empire without difficulty. The 
energy which had reinvigorated the Eastern Empire under 
the Iconoclasts was now dormant, and society had degenerated 
as much as the court. When the foundations of the Byzan- 
tine government were laid by Leo III., society was as eager 
to reform its own vices as the emperor was to improve the 
administration ; but when Basil mounted the throne, the 
people were as eager to enjoy their wealth as the emperor 
to gratify his ambition. The emperors of Constantinople, as 

* BasiUs detennination to keep on good terms with the Pope, his zeal in building 
churches, and his eagerness to baptize Jews, made him powerful friends in his 
own age, whose opinions have been reflected in modem history; but Zonams 
represents him as an ignorant and superstitious bigot. It is needless to say that 
he cannot have composed the advice to his hopeful son, Leo the Philosopher, 
which appears in the Byzantine Collection as his work. 

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AJ>. 886-913. 

the throne was to a certain degree elective, are generally types 
of their age ; and though Leo the Philosopher succeeded as 
the son and successor of Basil, no sovereign ever represented 
the character of his age better. He typifies the idle spirit of 
conservatism as correctly as Constantine V. does the aggres- 
sive energy of progress. 

Leo VI. was a man of learning and a lover of luxurious 
ease, a conceited pedant and an arbitrary but mild despot. 
Naturally of a confined intellect, he owes his title of * the 
Philosopher,' or * the Learned,' rather to the ignorance of the 
people, who attributed to him an acquaintance with the 
secrets of astrological science, than either to his own attain- 
ments, or to any remarkable patronage he bestowed on learned 
men ^ His personal character, however, exercised even greater 
influence on the public administration of the empire than that 
of his predecessors, for the government was now so completely 
despotic that the court, rather than the cabinet, directed the 
business of the state. Hence it was that the empire met with 
disgraceful disasters at a period when its force was sufficient 
to have protected all its subjects. The last traces of the 
Roman constitution were suppressed, and the trammels of an 
inviolable court ceremonial, and the invariable routine of 
administrators and lawyers, were all that was preserved of the 
institutions of an earlier and grander period. The complete 
consolidation of Byzantine despotism is recorded in the edicts 
of Leo, suppressing the old municipal system, and abolishing 
senatus-consulta *. The language of legislation became as 

' I.eo*s works consist of some poetical oracles and hymns, and a treatise on 
military tactics. The oracles are published at the end of Codinus, Be Anttquitatibus 
Constaniinopolitttnis, and the Tactics in Lamp's edition of the works of Menrsius, 
torn, ri., and separately. Leonis Imp. Taetica, sive De Re miWari Liber, J. Meursius 
grmece primus vulgavit et notas adjecit. Lugd. Bat. 1612. 4to. There is a French 
translation of the Tactics by Joly de Maizeroy. [The Oracles of Leo the Philo- 
sopher, which were exceedingly enigmatical, were preserved in the library of the 
palace at Constantinople. £ the Greek Chronicle of the Morea (Prologue, w. 
082-903, in Buchon, /2ecA«rcA#s Historiqves, Premiere Epoque, vol. ii. p. 34: and 
Ckroniques Strawrires, vol. i. p. 20) it is said that Leo had prophesied that a per- 
fidious emperor should be cast from the top of a column in the forum of Taurus, 
and that this was fulfilled when the Crusaders, after the capture of Constantinople, 
cast the Emperor Murtzuphlos from thence.. Fragments of a mediaeval popular 
▼ersion or interpretation of these oracles have been lately published by M. Legrand 
in bis Collee/ion de Monumentt pour servir a Vetude de la lanfrve nio-helllnique 
(Nouvelle S^rie, No. 5), applying thjm to the circumstances of the period of the 
occupation of Constantinople by tne Latins. These fragments are full of com- 
plaints of the misery of rfie lime, and of anticipation of coming disasters. See 
the prefatory notice by M. Gidel. E^.] 

' LtonU NovdloM, Const xlvi. Ixxviii. 

S 2 

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despotic as the acts of the emperor were arbitrary. Two 
Patriarchs, Photius and Nikolaos, were removed from the 
government of the church by the emperor's order. Leo lived 
in open adultery on a throne from which Constantine VI. had 
been driven for venturing on a second marriage while his 
divorced wife was living. Yet Zoe, the fourth wife of Leo VI., 
gave birth to the future emperor, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 
in the purple chamber of the imperial palace, before the 
marriage ceremony had been performed ^ A Saracen renegade, 
named Samonas, was for years the prime favourite of the 
infatuated Leo, who raised him to the rank of patrician, and 
allowed him to stand god-father to his son Constantine, 
though great doubts were entertained of the orthodoxy, or 
perhaps of the Christianity, of this disreputable favourite*. 
The expenditure of the imperial household was greatly 
increased ; the revenue previously destined to the service 
of the empire was diverted to the gratification of the court, 
and corruption was introduced into every branch of the ad- 
ministration by the example of the emperor, who raised money 
by selling offices. The Emperor Basil, like his predecessors, 
had been contented to make use of a galley, with a single 
bank of oars, in his visits to the country round Constantinople; 
but Leo never condescended to move unless in a dromon of 
two banks of oars, rowed by two hundred men — and two of 
these vessels were constantly maintained as imperial yachts ^ 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus recounts an anecdote concerning 
the corruption at his father's court, which deserves particular 
notice, as proving, on the best authority, that the emperor 
encouraged the system by sharing in its profits. Ktenas, 
a rich man in holy orders, and the best public singer of the 
time, was extremely anxious to possess acknowledged rank at 
the imperial court. He secured the support of Samonas, the 
Saracen grand-chamberlain, and hoped to obtain the rank of 
protospatharios, by offering to make the emperor a present of 
forty pounds' weight of gold, the pay of the office amounting 
only to a pound of gold annually. The emperor Leo refused, 
declaring, as his son tells us, that it was a transaction un- 
worthy of the imperial dignity, and that it was a thing unheard 

* Contin. Constant. Porphyr. Leo, 2a8. 
2 Ibid. 231 ; Symeon Mag. 468. 

* Constant. Porphyr. DeAdm, Imp, c. 51. 

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A.D 886-912] 

of to appoint a clerk protospatharios. The old man, however, 
by the means of Samonas, increased his offers, adding to his 
first proposal a pair of earrings, worth ten pounds of gold, and 
a richly-chased table of silver gilt, also worth ten pounds of 
gold. This addition produced so great an effect on Leo's 
mind, that, according to his own declaration, he disgraced the 
imperial dignity, for he made a member of the clergy a proto- 
spatharios. Constantine then chuckles at his father's good 
fortune ; for after receiving sixty pounds' weight of gold, the 
new protospatharios only lived to draw two years' pay ^. 

The strongest contrast between the administration of Leo 
and Basil was visible in the financial affairs of the empire. 
Though the direct taxes were not increased, the careless 
conduct of Leo, and his neglect to maintain the strict control 
over the tax-gatherers exercised by his father, allowed every 
species of abuse to creep into this branch of government, and 
the people were subject to the severest oppression ^. Mono- 
polies were also created in favour of the creatures of the court, 
which were the cause of great complaints, and one of these 
ultimately involved the empire in a most disastrous war with 
the Bulgarians. 

The state of the church in the Byzantine empire was always 
important, as ecclesiastical affairs afforded the only oppor- 
tunity for the expression of public opinion. A considerable 
body of the clergy was more closely connected with the 
people, by feelings and interests, than with the court. At 
this time, however, all classes enjoyed a degree of sensual 
abundance that rendered society torpid, and few were inclined 
to take part in violent contests. The majority of the subjects 
of the Byzantine empire, perhaps, never felt greater aversion 
to the conduct of the government, both in civil and ecclesias- 
tical matters ; and we may attribute the parade Leo made of 
his divine right to govern both the state and the church, to 
the fact that he was fully aware of the popular feeling ; but 
no class of men saw any probability of bettering their condi- 
tion, either by revolution or change, so that a bad government 
began to be looked upon as one of the unavoidable evils of 

* Constant. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp, c. 50. p. 232, edit. Bonn. 

* Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions the case of an iUiterate man being 
appointed judge-admiral, a lawyer being joined with him as deputy to prepare 
the decisions. 

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an advanced state of civilization, and as one of the inevitable 

calamities which Heaven itself had interwoven in man's 


The Emperor Leo VI. deposed the Patriarch Photius with- 
out pretending any religious motive for the change. The 
object was to confer the digmity on his brother Stephen, who 
was then only eighteen years of ag«. Photius was banished 
to a monastery in the Armeniac theme, where he survived 
his deposition about five years, more universally respected, 
and probably happier, than when he sat on the patriarchal 
throne, though he had been excommunicated by nine popes 
of Rome*. Leo was eager to punish the abbot Theodores 
Santabaren, whom he regarded as the author of his degra- 
dation and imprisonment during his father's reign. Failing 
to procure evidence to convict the abbot of any crime, he 
ordered him to be scourged and exiled to Athens. His eyes 
were subsequently put out by the emperor's orders. But 
Leo, though a tyrant, was not implacable, and some years 
later Theodoros was recalled to Constantinople, and received 
a pension. 

The predominance of ceremony in religion is shown by the 
legislative acts of the Byzantine government, relating to the 
observance of the Sabbath. As early as the reign of Con- 
stantine the Great, A.D. 3^1, there is a law commanding the 
suspension of all civil business on Sunday; and this enact- 
ment is enforced by a law of Theodosius L, in 386 *. During 
the contests concerning image-worship, society was strict in 
all religious observances, and great attention was paid to 
Sunday. In the year 960, Leo the Philosopher, who was far 
from affecting the practice of piety, even while he made a 
parade of ecclesiastical observances, revoked all the exemp- 
tions which the law had hitherto made in favour of the 
performance of useful labour on Sunday, and forbade even 
necessary agricultural work, as dishonouring the Lord's day. 
Arguing with the bigotry of the predestinarian, that the 
arbitrary will of God, and not the fixed laws which he has 
revealed to man, gives abundant harvests to the earth, the 
emperor regards the diligence of the agriculturist as of no 
avail. Fate became the refuge of the human mind when the 

* See p 334. * Cod. Theod, ii. 8. 18, Dt Ferik, 

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AJ). 886-911.] 

government of Rome had rendered the improvement of pagan 
society hopeless ; superstition assumed its place among the 
Christians, and the stagnation of the Byzantine empire per- 
suaded men that no prudence in the conduct of their affairs 
could better man's condition. 

Ecclesiastical affairs gave Leo very little trouble during his 
reign, but towards its end he was involved in a dispute with 
the Patriarch Nikolaos the mystic. After the death of Leo's 
third wife, without male issue, the emperor, not wishing to 
violate openly the laws of the Eastern church, enforced by his 
own legislation, which forbade fourth marriages, installed the 
beautiful Zoe Carbunopsina, a grand-niece of the historian 
Theophanes, as his concubine in the palace ^ Zoe gave birth 
to a son in the purple chamber, who was the celebrated 
emperor and author, Constantine VII. (Porphyrogenitus). 
The young prince was baptized in the Church of St. Sophia 
by the Patriarch Nikolaos, but that severe ecclesiastic only 
consented to officiate at the ceremony on receiving the em- 
peror's promise that he would not live any longer with his 
concubine. Three days after the baptism of Constantine, the 
Emperor Leo celebrated his marriage with Zoe, and conferred 
on her the imperial title, thus keeping his promise to the 
Patriarch in one sense. But Nikolaos, indignant at having 
been paltered with in a double sense, degraded the priest who 
performed the nuptial ceremony, and interdicted the entry 
of the church to Leo. The emperor only thought it neces- 
sary to pay so much respect to the interdict as to attend 
the church ceremonies by a private door ; and the people, 
caring little about the quarrel, laughed when they saw the 
imperial philosopher show so much wit. Leo, however, took 
measures to gain the Pope's good-will, and when assured of 
papal support, he deposed Nikolaos and appointed Euthymios 
the syncellus his successor. The new Patriarch, though he 
had been a monk on Mount Olympus, recognized the validity 
of the emperor's fourth marriage, on the pretext that the 
public good required the ecclesiastical laws to yield to the 
exigencies of the state. The populace, to excuse their 
Patriarch, believed a report that the emperor had threatened, 

> Basil had prohibited fourth marriages; Mortreuil, ii. a8o: and Leo himself 
had subjected third marriages to ecclesiastic^^ censure ; Const, xc. 

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[Bk.lI.Cb.1.4 ai 

in case the Patriarch refused to recognize the validity of his 
marriage with Zoe, to publish a law allowing every man to 
marry four wives at the same time. This rumour, notwith- 
standing its absurdity, affords strong proof of the absolute 
power of the emperor, and of the credulity with which the 
Greeks received every rumour unfavoifrable to their rulers ^. 

The legislative labours of Leo's reign are more deserving of 
attention than his ecclesiastical skirmishes, though he only 
followed in the traces of his father, and made use of materials 
already prepared to his hand. We have already noticed that 
he published a revised edition of the Basilika, to which he 
added a considerable amount of supplementary legislation. 
Byzantine law, however, even after it had received all the 
improvements of Leo, was ill suited to serve as a practical 
guide to the population of the empire. The Basilika is an 
inspiration of imperial pride, not a work whose details follow 
the suggestions of public utility. Whole titles are filled 
with translations of imperial edicts, useless in the altered 
circumstances of the empire; and one of the consequences 
of the ill-devised measure of adopting an old code was, that 
no perfect copy of the Basilika has been preserved. Many 
books fell into neglect, and have been entirely lost. The 
sovereigns of the Byzantine empire, except while it was ruled 
by the Iconoclasts, felt that their power rested on the fabric of 
the Roman administration, not on their own strength. 

The collection of the edicts or 'novels' of Leo, inserted 
in the editions of the Corpus Juris Civilis, has rendered the 
legislation of Leo more generally known than his revised 
edition of the Byzantine code. These edicts were published 
for the purpose of modifying portions of the law, as pro- 
mulgated in the Basilika. The greater number are addressed 
to Stylianos, who is supposed to have been the father of Zoe, 
Leo's second wife, and it is thought they were published 
between the years 887 and 893, while Stylianos was master of 
the offices and logothetes ^. 

The military events of Leo's reig^ were marked by several 
disgraceful defeats ; but the strength of the empire was not 

* Georg. Mon. 559. 

* ZachariM, Delineation 50. As a proof of the mental movement throughout 
Europe, it may be observed that the legislation of Alfred iS" contemporary with 
that of Leo VI. Christian society was moved by some impulses which operated 
both in England and Constantinople. 

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4.D. 886-91 2.] 

seriously affected by the losses sustained, though the people 
often suffered the severest misery. The Asiatic frontier was 
generally defended with success. Nicephorus Phokas, who 
had distinguished himself in Italy during the reign of Basil, 
acquired additional glory by his activity as general of the 
Thrakesian theme. The Saracens, nevertheless, continued to 
make destructive inroads into the empire, as it was found 
impossible to watch every point where they could assemble 
an army. In the year 887, the town of Hysela in Charsiana 
was taken, and its inhabitants carried away into slavery ^ In 
888, Samos was plundered, and the governor, with many of 
the inhabitants, made prisoner. In 893, the fortress of Koron 
in Cappadocia was taken ^. In 901, reciprocal incursions were 
made by the Christians and the Mohammedans, but the 
Byzantine troops were more successful than the Saracen, 
for they penetrated as far as the district of Aleppo, and 
carried off fifteen thousand prisoners. This advantage was 
compensated by the victories of the Saracen fleet, which took 
and plundered the island of Lemnos^ The Saracen fleet 
also, in the year 90^, took and destroyed the city of Demetrias 
in Thessaly, where all the inhabitants who could not be car- 
ried away, and sold with profit as slaves, were murdered*. 
During these calamities, Leo, in imitation of his father, em- 
ployed the resources of the state, which ought to have been 
devoted to putting the naval forces of the empire in an 
efficient condition, in building a new church, and in con- 
structing a monastery for eunuchs *. Before the end of Leo's 
^^ign, the isolated and independent position assumed by 
several of the Saracen emirs on the frontier, enabled the 
Byzantine generals to make some permanent conquests. 
Melias, an Armenian who had distinguished himself in the 
Bulgarian war, gained possession of the country between 
Mount Amanus and the Euphrates, and this district was 
formed into a new theme called Lykandos *. The Saracens 
were also driven from the city of Theodosiopolis by Leo 

* Contin. Leo, 3t8. * Symeon Mag. 462. 
' Contin. 235 ; Symeon Mag. 463; Weil, ii. 492. 

* Contin 224; Symeon Mag. 463; Cameniates, De Excidio Thessalonieen&i, 329. 

* Georg. Mon 556; Symeon Mag. 463. 

* Constant. Porphyr. De Adm, Imp. c. 50. p. 228, edit. Bonn ; De Thematibus, 
p. 32, edit. Bonn. 

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Katakalon, and the Araxes was constituted the boundary of 

the empire towards the Iberians ^. 

The ruinous effects of the piratical system of warfare 
pursued by the Saracen fleets, and the miseries inflicted on 
thousands of Christian famih'es in the Byzantine empire, 
deserve a record in the page of history. Fortunately we do 
not require, in describing what really happened, to indulge 
the imagination by painting what probably occurred, for time 
has spared the narrative of one of the sufferers, in which the 
author describes his own fate, and the calamities he witnessed, 
with the minute exactitude of truth and pedantry. Many 
severe blows were inflicted on the Byzantine empire by the 
daring enterprises of the Mohammedans, who took advan- 
tage of the neglected state of the imperial navy to plunder 
the richest cities of Greece. But the most terrible catastrophe 
the Christians suffered was the sack of Thessalonica, the second 
city of the empire in population and wealth. Of this event 
Joannes Cameniates, an ecclesiastic of the order of Readers, 
and a native of the place, has left us a full account. He shared 
all the dangers of the assault, and after the capture of his 
native city he was carried prisoner to Tarsus, where he was 
released from slavery by one of the exchanges of prisoners 
which took place between the Christians and Saracens from 
time to time in that city^ 

Thessalonica is situated at the head of an inner basin 
terminating the long gulf stretching up to the northward, 
between the snowy peaks and rugged mountains of Olympus 
and Ossa to the west, and the nch shores of the Chalcidice 
and the peninsula of Cassandra to the east. The bay, on 
which the city looks down, affords a safe anchorage; and 
in the tenth century an ancient mole enclosed an inner port 
within its arms, where the largest vessels could land or receive 
their cargoes as in a modem dock. This port bounded the 
city on the south, and was separated from it by a wall about 
a mile in length running along the shore. Within, the houses 
rose gradually, until the upper part of the city was crowned 
with an acropolis, separated from the hills behind by a 

' Constant. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. c. 45. p. aoi, edit. Bonn. 

• Joannes Cameniates held the office of Kubuklesios or crozier-bearer to the 
Archbishop of Thessalonica. His narrative is contained in the volume of the 
Byzantine historians enUtled Scrip/ores post Theophamm, 


by Google 


A.D. 886-912.] 

rugged precipice. This citadel is now called the Seven 
Towers. Two ravines, running to the sea from the rocky 
base of the acropolis, serve as ditches to the western and 
eastern walls of the city, which to this day follow the same 
line, and present nearly the same aspect as in the reign of 
Leo the Philosopher. Their angles at the sea, where they 
join the wall along the port, are strengthened by towers of 
extraordinary size. The Egnatian Way, which for many 
centuries served as the high-road for the communications 
between Rome and Constantinople, formed a great street 
passing in a straight line through the centre of the city from 
its western to its eastern wall. This relic of Roman great- 
ness, with its triumphal arches, still forms a marked feature 
in the Turkish city; but the moles of the ancient port have 
fallen to ruin, and the space between the sea-wall and the 
water is disfigured by a collection of filthy huts. Yet the 
admirable situation of Thessalonica, and the fertility of the 
surrounding country, watered by several noble rivers, still 
enables it to nourish a population of upwards of sixty thou- 
sand souls. Nature has made it the capital and seaport of 
a rich and extensive district, and under a good government 
it could not fail to become one of the largest and most 
flourishing cities on the shores of the Mediterranean ^. 

Leo of Tripolis was the most active, daring, add skilful 
of the Saracen admirals. He was born of Christian parents, 
at Attalia in Pamphylia, but became a renegade, and settled 
at Tripolis in Syria after he embraced the Mohammedan 
faith. In the year 904, Leo sailed from Tarsus with a fleet 
of fifty-four ships, each carrying two hundred men, besides 
their officers and a few chosen troops. The ablest corsairs 
in the East were assembled for this expedition, and a rumour 
of the unusual care that was shown in fitting out the fleet 
reached the court of the idle philosopher at Constantinople. 
He foresaw that some daring attack on his dominions would 
be made, and would fain have placed the imperial navy in a 

* The population is said to have varied from 50,000 to 70,000 during the 
present century. Cameniates mentions that upwards of 22,000 young men, 
women, and children, selected either because they had wealthy relations to redeem 
them, or strength and beauty to command a good price in the slave-market, were 
carried away captive by the Saracens. Dt EMcidio Thessai, c. 73. p. 377. Sup- 
posing that this was a tenth of the whole population— and when the state of 
society is considered, it may be doubted whether it formed a greater portion— 
the popuiation of The&alonica was then 220,000. 

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[Bk II.Ch.I.§a. 

condition to defend the islands and shores of the Aegean ; but 

though the commerce of Greece could have supplied sailors to 

man the largest force, the negligence and incapacity of the 

admiralty had been so great, that several years of misfortune 

were required to awaken the spirit necessary to restore the 

Byzantine fleet to the condition from which it had fallen. 

The naval force that was now sent to defend the empire did 

not venture to encounter the Saracen fleet, but retired before 

it, seeking shelter within the Hellespont, and leaving the whole 

Archipelago unprotected. In the mean time fugitives reached 

Constantinople, who reported that the enemy proposed to 

attack Thessalonica. 

The walls of Thessalonica had been originally of great 
strength, but the fortifications were in a neglected state, and 
the city was almost without a garrison of regular troops. The 
sea-wall was in want of repair, and parts were so low that it 
was not difficult to mount the battlements from the yards 
of the ships in the port. On the land side the floors of the 
towers that flanked the walls had in some places fallen into 
such a state of decay, that the communications of the de- 
fenders on the curtains were interrupted. The emperor, when 
informed of the defenceless state of the place, increased the 
confusion by his injudicious meddling. He sent a succession 
of officers from the capital with diff*erent instructions, fresh 
counsels, and new powers ; and, as usually happens in similar 
cases, each of his deputies availed himself of his authority to 
alter the plan of defence adopted by his predecessor. As 
might be expected under such circumstances, the Saracens 
arrived before the fortifications were repaired, and before the 
arrangements for defence were completed. 

The most alarming defect in the fortifications was the con- 
dition of the wall towards the port. It was too low, without 
the necessary towers to afford a flanking defence, and in 
several places the depth of the water admitted ships to ap- 
proach close to the quay that ran under its battlements. 
Petronas, the first officer sent by the emperor, thinking that 
there was not sufficient time to raise the wall or construct new 
towers, adopted measures for preventing the approach of the 
enemy's ships. To effect this, he transported to the port the 
sculptured sarcophagi and immense blocks of marble that 
then adorned the Hellenic tombs on both sides of the Egnatian 

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AJ). 886-912.] 

Way, without the western and eastern gates of the city, and 
commenced laying them in the sea at some distance from 
the quay. His object was to form a mole reaching within 
a few feet of the surface of the water, against which the enemy 
might run their ships, and leave them exposed, for some time, 
to the missiles and Greek fire of the defenders of the city. 
But the inhabitants of Thessalonica showed themselves insen- 
sible of danger before it approached, and incapable of defend- 
ing themselves when it arrived. Their whole confidence was 
placed in St. Demetrius, who had never deceived them— not 
in their emperor, whose armies and fleets were every day 
defeated. They knew that Thessalonica had often repulsed 
the attacks of the Sclavonians in the seventh and eighth cen- 
turies ; they boasted that it had never been taken by pagans 
or unbelievers ; and they believed that, whenever it had been 
besieged, St. Demetrius had shown himself active in its de- 
fence : it was therefore the universal opinion, that as patron 
saint he would now defend a place in which he had a strong 
personal interest; for in no other spot on earth was he 
worshipped by so numerous, so wealthy, and so devoted a 
community ^ The fate of Thessalonica proves the wisdom 
of Leo III. in endeavouring to exterminate the worship of 
images and saints. 

Petronas had not made much progress with his work when he 
was superseded by an officer named Leo, who was appointed 
general of the theme of Thessalonica. Leo, finding that the 
wall towards the port was not higher than the immense stern- 
galleries of the ships then in use, ordered the undertaking of 
Petronas to be suspended, and every nerve to be strained to 
raise the wall. Reports became every day more alarming. 
At one time it was announced that the Saracen fleet had 
pursued the Byzantine admiral, Eustathios Argyros, up the 
Hellespont as far as Parium. Afterwards it became certain 
that it had quitted the Hellespont and reached Thasos. The 
people of the city would not, however, shake off* their apathy 
and their confidence in St. Demetrius. They showed little 
aptitude for building or for military discipline ; the wall 
advanced slowly, and the militia did not seem likely to fight 

" J. Cameniates, De Excidio ThissaL c. 8. p. 324; Tafel, Di Th$ssalomea ejus- 
fue Agro, proleg. Iviii, civ. 

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bravely in defence of their country even should the wall be 

completed. At this conjuncture a third officer arrived from 

Constantinople, named Niketas. His arrival was of itself 

sufficient to produce some disorder; but, imfortunately, an 

accident that happened shortly after threw everything into 

confusion. Leo and Niketas met on horseback to inspect the 

defences of the city; the horse of Leo reared, threw his rider, 

and injured his right thigh and side in such a manner that 

his life was in danger, and for several days he was unable 

to move. This accident invested Niketas with the chief 


Niketas seems to have had more military experience than 
his predecessor, and he felt that the citizens of Thessalonica, 
though they formed a numerous militia, were not to be 
depended on for defending the place. He therefore en- 
deavoured to assemble a body of troops accustomed to w^r, 
by calling on the general of the theme of Strymon to send 
some of the federate Sclavonians from his government ; but 
the envy or negligence of the general, and the avarice and 
ill-will of the Sclavonian leaders, prevented the arrival of any 
assistance from that quarter. Though Niketas threatened to 
report the misconduct of the general of Strymon to the 
emperor, he could obtain no addition to the garrison, except 
a few ill-equipped Sclavonian archers from the villages in the 
plains near the city. The generals did not gain the good- 
will of the inhabitants since they seemed all to place too 
much confidence in human prudence ; the people preferred 
relying on St. Demetrius and heaven. To secure the divine 
aid, a solemn procession of all the clergy and citizens, 
accompanied by every stranger residing in Thessalonica, and 
headed by the archbishop and the civil and military authori- 
ties, visited the church of St. Demetrius. Public prayers 
were offered up day and night with great fervour; but long 
after, when Joannes Cameniates recorded that the interven- 
tion of St. Demetrius had proved unavailing, he acknowledged 
that God permitted the destruction of Thessalonica to show 
mankind that nothing renders the divine ear accessible to the 
intercession of the saints but a pious life and good deeds. 

The Saracens stopped a short time at Thasos to prepare 
engines for hurling stones, and other machines used in si^es. 
At last, as the inhabitants of Thejssalonica were leaving their 

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AJ>. 886-913.] 

houses at daybreak, to attend morning prayer, on Sunday the 
29th of July 904, a rumour arose that the enemy was already 
in the gulf, and only concealed from view by Cape Ekbolos. 
The unwarlike city was filled with lamentations, tumult, and 
alarm ; but the citizens enrolled in the militia armed them- 
selves, amidst the tears of their wives and children, and 
hastened to the battlements. The anxious crowd had not 
long to wait before fifty-four ships were seen rounding the 
cape in succession, with all sail set. The sea-breeze bore 
them rapidly forward, and before noon they were at anchor 
close to the city. The entrance of the port between the 
moles was shut by a chain ; and to prevent this chain from 
being broken by hostile ships impelled by the strong sea- 
breezes of the summer months, several vessels had been sunk 
across the mouth. Leo of Tripolis immediately reconnoitred 
the fortifications, and examined the unfinished work of 
Petronas, in order to ascertain if it were still practicable to 
approach the wall beyond its junction with the mole. After 
this examination was completed, a desultory attack was made 
on the place to occupy the attention of the garrison, and 
induce the besieged to show all their force and means of 

Next day the Saracens landed and attacked the gate Roma, 
which was situated in the eastern wall, and not far from the 
sea. Seven of the engines constructed at Thasos were placed 
in battery, and an attempt was made to plant scaling-ladders 
against the fortifications, under cover of a shower of stones, 
darts, and arrows; but a vigorous sally of the Byzantine 
troops repulsed the assault and captured the ladders. In the 
afternoon the plan of attack was changed. It was resolved to 
force an entrance by burning down two of the four gates in 
the eastern wall. The gate Roma and the gate Cassandra, 
on the Egnatian Way, were selected. Waggons filled with 
dry wood, pitch, and sulphur were covered over by fishing- 
boats turned upside down, to prevent those on the wall from 
setting fire to the combustibles at a distance. Sheltered by 
these boats, the Saracen sailors pushed the waggons close to 
the gates, and when they had lighted their fires, they escaped 
to their companions with their shields over their heads, while 
the rising flames, the stones from the ballistae, and the arrows 
of the archers distracted the attention of the defenders of the 

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wall. The iron plates on the doors were soon heated red-hot, 
and, the door-posts being consumed, the gates fell ; but when 
the fire burned low, an inner gateway was seen closed with 
masonry, and well protected by flanking towers, so that the 
Saracens gained nothing by the success of this project. But 
the real object of the besiegers in all these preliminary 
operations had only been to draw off the attention of the 
Greeks from the point where most danger was to be appre- 
hended. The second night of the siege was a sleepless one 
for both parties. The inhabitants, seriously alarmed at the 
daring courage and contempt of death displayed by the 
assailants, deemed it necessary to keep up a strict watch 
along the whole circuit of the fortifications, lest some un- 
guarded spot should be found by the besiegers during the 
darkness. On board the fleet an incessant noise of hammers, 
and of Arabs and Ethiopians shouting, with a constant moving 
of lights, proclaimed that active preparation was going on for 
again renewing the attack. 

When Leo of Tripolis reconnoitred the fortifications, he had 
ascertained that his ships could approach the wall in several 
places, and he had carefully marked the spots. The interval 
hv^d been employed in getting everything ready for an attack 
in this quarter, and now the night was devoted to complete 
the work, in order that the besieged might remain in ignor- 
ance of the design until the moment of its execution. It was 
necessary to form stages, in which the assailants could over- 
look the defenders of the place, and from which they could 
descend on the wall. The project was executed with ability 
and promptitude in a very simple manner. Two ships were 
bound firmly together by cables and chains, and the long 
yards of the immense lateen sails then in use were reversed, so 
as to extend far beyond the bows of the double ship. These 
yards were strong enough to support a framework of wood 
capable of containing a small body of men, who were pro- 
tected by boards on the sides from missiles, while shrouds 
kept up a constant communication with the deck below. 
These cages, when swung aloft from the yards, could be 
elevated above the battlements where the sea-wall was lowest, 
and to the besieged looked like the tops of towers suddenly 
raised out of the sea. In the morning the double ships were 
rowed into their positions, and the fight commenced between 

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AJ>. 886-91 a.] 

the besi^ers in their hanging towers and the defenders on the 
ramparts. Stones, arrows, pots filled witib flaming combusti- 
bles, anjl fire launched from long brazen tubes, the composi- 
tion of which had been at an earlier period a secret known 
only in the Byzantine arsenal, now came pouring down from 
above on the Greeks, who were soon driven from the battle- 
ments. The Ethiopians of the Alexandrian ships were the 
first to make good their footing on the wall, and as soon as 
they had cleared the whole line of the fortifications towards 
the sea from its defenders, they broke open the gates, and the 
crews of the other ships rushed into the city. The sailors em- 
ployed to collect the booty entered with their drawn swords, 
wearing only their trousers, in order that no plunder might 
be abstracted secretly. The militia fled without a thought of 
further resistance : the Sclavonians escaped from a gate in the 
citadel, which they had secured as a means of retreat. 

The Saracens divided themselves into bands, and com- 
menced slaughtering every person they found in the streets, 
though they encountered crowds of women and children, who 
had rushed out of their houses to learn the cause of the 
unusual commotion. A number of the inhabitants endea- 
voured to escape by the Golden Gate, which formed the 
entrance of the Egnatian Way into the city from the west, 
but the crowd rendered it impossible to throw open the doors. 
A party of Ethiopians came upon the people as they were 
struggling to effect their purpose. Hundreds were crushed 
to death or suffocated, and the blacks stabbed the rest, 
without sparing age or sex. John Cameniates, his father, his 
uncle, and two brothers, fled towards the wall that separates 
the town from the citadel, intending to conceal themselves in 
a tower until the first fury of the assailants was assuaged. 
They had hardly ascended the wall when a band of Ethiopians 
reached the place in pursuit of a crowd of people, whom they 
murdered before the eyes of the terrified family. The Ethio- 
pians then mounted the wall, but a tower was between them 
and Cameniates, of which the floor was in such a ruinous 
condition that it seemed dangerous to pass. As the enemy 
paused, John Cameniates deemed the moment favourable to 
implore mercy, and running quickly over a beam that 
remained unbroken, he threw himself at the feet of the black 
captain, promising that, he would reveal where a treasure was 

VOL. n. 1: 

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hidden, in cstse his own life arid the lives of his relations were 
spared. His confidence won the favour of the barbarians, 
one of whom understood Greek, and the family was taken 
under their protection ; yet as they were marching through 
the streets, Cameniates received two wounds from an 
Ethiopian belonging to artother band. On their way to the 
port the prisoners were carried into the convent of Akroullios, 
where they found the chief of the Ethiopians seated in the 
vestibule. After hearing the promises of old Cameniates, he 
rose and entered the church, in which about three hundred 
Christians had been collected. There, seating himself cross- 
legged on the altar, he made a signal to his followers, who 
immediately put all to death, leaving only the family of 
Cameniates. From this hideous spectacle they were con- 
ducted to the Saracen admiral. 

After Leo of Tripolis had heard what Cameniates had to 
say, he sent a guard to convey the treasure to the port. 
Fortunately the hoard, which contained all the wealth of many 
members of the family, was found untouched, for had it not 
satisfied the avarice of the chiefs, the whole family would 
have been murdered, as happened in many other cases. This 
treasure was received by Leo only as a ransom for the lives of 
his prisoners, who were embarked in order to be exchanged 
at Tarsus for Saracens in captivity among the Christians. 
Cameniates found Leo, the general of the theme of Thessa- 
lonica, Niketas, the third envoy of the emperor, and Rodo- 
phyles, a eunuch of the imperial household, who had stopped 
as he was conveying a hundred pounds' weight of gold to the 
Byzantine army in Italy, all among the prisoners. Rodophyles 
was brought before the Saracen admiral, who had learned from 
the captives that he was intrusted with treasure. The eunuch 
boldly replied that he had performed his duty to the emperor, 
by sending away the gold to the general of the theme of 
Strymon as soon as the enemy approached ; and when Leo of 
Tripolis found that this was true, he flew into a passion, and 
ordered Rodophyles to be beaten to death on the spot\ 

* Cameniates calls the sum intrusted to Rodophyles two talents, by which he 
of course means centners ; other authors call it only one hundred pounds. Contin. 
Z,w, 226; Symeon Mag. 466; Geoi^. Mon. 558; Leo Gramm. 482. ConcemioF 
the variety of weight in ancient talents, see Hussey, Essay on Ancient WeigJus antf 
Money, 28-42. 

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Several days were spent in coHecting the booty in the city^ 
in releasing such of the captives as had friends in the neigh- 
bourhood able to purchase their liberty by the payment of 
a second ransom, and in n^otiating the exchange of two 
hundred persons, for whom an officer of the emperor named 
Simeon engaged that an equal number of Saracen captives 
should be delivered up at Tarsus, When all other business 
was settled, the Saracens threatened to bum the city, and 
succeeded in forcing the general of Strymon to deliver up the 
gold for which Rodophyles had lost his life, in order to save 
the place from destruction. The hostile fleet quitted the 
harbour of Thessalonica ten days after the capture of the city. 
Cameniates was embarked in the ship of the Egyptian admiral, 
who served under Leo of Tripolis. The crew consisted of two 
hundred men and eight hundred captives ; men, women, and 
children were crowded together on the lower deck. These 
unfortunate people, all of whom were of the higher ranks, 
suffered indescribable misery, and many died of hunger, thirst, 
and suffocation before they reached the island of Crete, where, 
after a fortnight's confinement, they were allowed to land for 
the first time. The fleet had deviated from its course in order 
to avoid falling in with the Byzantine squadron, for it was im- 
possible to fight when every ship was crowded with prisoners. 
It had therefore remained six days at Patmos, and two at 
Naxos, which was then tributary to the Saracens of Crete. 

The fleet anchored at Zontarion, a port opposite the island 
of Dia, which afforded better shelter than the harbour of 
Chandax, and where it could obtain the seclusion necessary 
for dividing the slaves and spoil among the different parties 
composing the expedition, in order that each might hasten 
home before the autumnal storms commenced. The whole of 
the captives were landed, and three days were spent in en- 
deavouring to find their relations, and unite families that had 
been dispersed, many of which were again separated by the 
new division. As not only the fifty-four ships of Leo's fleet, 
but also several Byzantine men-of-war and merchantmen, 
taken in the port of Thessalonica, had been filled with 
prisoners, it is not surprising that the number, even after the 
loss sustained on the passage, still amounted to twenty-two 
thousand souls. Of these, with the exception of the small 
number reserved for exchange at Tarsus, all consisted of 

T 7, 

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young men -and women in the flower of their youth, or 
children remarkable for the bloom of their beauty : they had 
been saved from the slaughter of the older inhabitants, or 
selected from those seized in the houses, because they were 
sure of commanding a high price in the slave-markets of the 
East When all the booty had been landed, the spoil was 
divided by lot, and then the fleet dispersed, the ships sailing 
from Crete directly to Alexandria, or to the different ports of 
Syria to which they belonged. Many of the unfortunate 
prisoners, exposed to sale in the slave-markets of Fostat, the 
capital of Egypt, and Damascus, were transported to Ethiopia 
and Arabia, and even to the southern parts of Africa; the 
more fortunate were re-purchased from those to whose diare 
they had fallen, by the Cretans, and by them re-sold to their 

The island of Crete had become a great slave-mart, in 
consequence of the extensive piracies of its Saracen popula- 
tion ; and at this time the slave-trade was the most profitable 
branch of commerce in the Mediterranean ^ ! A lai^e portion 
of the Greek inhabitants of Crete having embraced Moham- 
medanism, and established communications with the Christian 
slave-merchants in the By:5antine empire, carried on a regular 
trade in purchasing Byzantine captives of wealthy families, 
and arranging exchanges of prisoners with their relations. 
As these exchanges were private speculations^ and not, like 
those at Tarsus, under the r^ulation of an official cartel, the 
Christians were generally compelled to pay a considerable sum 
as redemption-money, in order to deliver their relatives, in 
addition to releasing a Saracen captive. After the buying 
and selling of the captives from Thessalonica had been carried 
on for several days, the Saracens embarked their prisoners for 
their ultimate destination. The wife of one of the brothers of 
Cameniates was purchased by a Cretan slave-merchant, but he 
had the misery of seeing his mother, his wife, and two of his 
children (for the third had died during the voyage) embarked 
in a ship belonging to Sidon- Cameniates, with his father, and 
the greater part of the captives set apart for the exchange at 

* The prevalence of piracy on the coast of Attica, about the end of the twelfth 
century, after the Saracens had been long expelled from the Grecian seas, is 
proved by the Memorial of the Athenians to the £lmperor Alexios III., a.d. 1195- 
iao3, drawn up by their archbishop, Michael Akominatos. Tafel, TJutsalomfat 
p. 46^ where mention is made of n^ KnjKaoiai' tw SoKarriuif KyarSm. 

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A.D. 886-912.] 

Tarsus, were put on board a Byzantine man-of-war, the upper 
deck of which was occupied by the Saracens, while the Chris- 
tians were crowded on the lower, in filth and darkness. 

On the passage from Crete to Syria, an event happened 
which shows that Leo, the Saracen admiral, was a man of 
energy and courage, well fitted for his daring occupation, and 
by no means so deaf to the calls of humanity, in the hour of 
the most terrific danger, as his ferocious conduct after the 
taking of Thessalonica might lead us to believe. A violent 
storm threatened one of the smaller galleys with destruction, 
for it broke in the middle — an accident to which ancient ships, 
from their extreme length and want of beam, were very liable. 
The Saracens on board were near the admiral's ship and that 
in which Cameniates was embarked, and they requested Leo 
to order the crew of the Byzantine man-of-war to throw all 
the captives overboard and receive them. The order was 
given, allowing the crew to quit the sinking ship, but the 
violence of the wind had driven the ship in which Cameniates 
was embarked to such a distance that the signals of the 
admiral were unnoticed or unheeded. Leo, however, ordered 
his own ship to be brought as near the galley as possible, and 
succeeded in saving, not only the Saracen crew, but every 
Christian on board, though the crews and captives of the two 
vessels amounted to upwards of one thousand persons. The 
Byzantine generals, Leo and Niketas, who were on board 
Leo's ship, recounted the circumstances to Cameniates, and 
declared that their ship was ill-calculated to contain so great 
a crowd, and was navigated with great difficulty. After refitting 
at Cyprus, the squadron reached Tripolis on the 14th of 
September. The father of Cameniates died there, before the 
prisoners were removed to Tarsus. While waiting at Tarsus, 
in fear of death from the unhealthiness of the place, Came- 
niates wrote the account of his sufferings, from which the 
preceding narrative has been extracted ; and we must pardon 
what he calls the feebleness, but what others are more likely 
to term the inflation of his style, on account of the interesting 
matter embalmed in its verbosity. The worthy Anagnostes 
appears to have returned to his native city, and obtained the 
office of koubouklesios to the archbishop. 

The taking of Thessalonica affords sad proof of the in- 
efficiency of central governments, which deny the use of arms 

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to the people, to defend the wealthy and unfortified cities of 

an extensive empire. The tendency of a court to exi>end the 

revenues of the state on the pageantry of power, on palaces, 

churches, and fites in the capital, without bestowing a thought 

on the destruction of a village or the loss of a parish, reveals 

to us one of the paths by which despotic power invariably 

tends to degrade the mass of human civilization, and cause 

a decline in the population of its territory. 

The wealth the Saracens had obtained at lliessalonica 
invited them to make fresh attacks on the empire, until at 
last the public sufferings compelled the Empercw: Leo, in the 
last year of his reign, to make a vigorous attempt to put an 
end to the piracies of the Cretans, a.d. 912. Himerios, who 
had gained a naval victory over the Saracens in the year 909, 
was intrusted with the command of a powerful fleet, and com- 
menced his operations by clearing the Archipelago of the 
Cretan pirates. His fleet consisted of forty dromons or war- 
galleys of the largest size, besides other vessels ; and it was 
manned by twelve thousand native sailors, besides seven 
hundred Russians, who are considered worthy of especial 
enumeration. A powerful army, under the orders of Romanus 
the future emperor, was assembled at Samos for the purpose 
of besieging Chandax ; but after eight months of insignificant 
demonstrations, the expedition was defeated with great loss 
by the Saracens, under the command of Leo of Tripolis and 
Damian, off the Coast of Samos. HJmerios escaped with 
difficulty to Mitylene, but Romanus saved the remains of the 
imperial forced 

In southern Italy, everything was in such a state of con- 
fusion that it is Jiot worth while following the political 
changes it suffered. The Dukes of Naples, Gaeta, Salerno, 
and Amalfi were at times the willing subjects of the Byzan- 
tine emperor, and at times their personal ambition induced 
them to form alliances with the Saracens of Africa and Sicily, 

* Constantine Porphyrqgenitus gives a cunous account of the forces that com- 
posed this expedition. Dt Catremon. Aulae Byzant. i. 651, edit. Bonn; Contin. 
232 ; Symeon Mag. 470. The imperial fleet in the Aegean Sea amounted usoally 
to sixty dromons, of which seven were furnished by the islands of the Archipelago, 
ten by Samos and the islands depending on it, and ten by the continent of Greece ; 
the rest were furnished from the coasts of Macedonia, Thrace, and Asia Minor. 
A dromon, complete for active service, carried two hundred and thirty rowers and 
sailors, and seventy soldiers or marines. 

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AJ>. 886-91 3.] 

or with the Pope and the Romans, to cany on war with 
the Byzantine generals of the theme of Longobardia (Apulia). 
The Italian population, as in ancient times, consisted of many 
nations living under different laws and usages, so that only 
a powerful central government, or a system of political equality, 
could preserve order in the discordant elements. The state 
of civilization rendered the first difficult, the second impos- 
sible. The popes were always striving to increase their 
power, allying themselves alternately with the Franks and 
the Byzantines; the native Italian population in the cities 
was struggling for municipal independence ; a powerful aris- 
tocracy, of Germanic origin, <was contending for power ; the 
Byzantine authorities were toiling to secure an increase of 
revenue, and the whole peninsula was exposed to the plunder- 
ing incursions of the Hungarians and the Saracens. In this 
scene of confusion the Emperor Leo was suddenly compelled 
to take an active part by the loss of Bari, which was seized 
by the Duke of Beneventum. A Byzantine army regained 
possession of the city, and revenged the injury by taking 
Beneventum, which, however, only remained in possession of 
the imperial troops for four years. The Byzantine fleet in 
Italy was subsequently defeated by the Sicilian Saracens 
in the Straits of Messina. In short, the administration of 
Leo the Philosopher in Italy was marked by his usual negli- 
gence and incapacity, and the weakness of his enemies alone 
preserved the Byzantine possessions. 

The kingdom of Bulgaria had for a considerable period 
proved a quiet neighbour and useful ally. It formed a barrier 
against the Turkish tribes, whom the ruin of the Khazar 
empire drove into Europe. Leo, however, allowed himself 
to be involved in hostilities with the Bulgarians by the 
avarice of his ministers. Stylianos, the father of his second 
wife Zoe, established a monopoly of the Bulgarian trade in 
favour of two Greek merchants. To conceal the extortions 
to which this monopoly gave rise, the dep6t of Bulgarian 
commerce was removed from Constantinople to Thessalo- 
nica \ The Bulgarians, whose interest suffered by this fraud, 

' At this time Thcophano, the first wife of Leo, was still living, and Zoe was 
only the emperor's concubine. Stylianos, who is supposed to be the same to 
whom the Novellae of Leo are addressed, is called Zaoutzes by the Continuator 
(JK)). The name is connected with the Turkish Tshaous. See Tfcuwaioi in 
Ducange, Glossarium mtd, it, inf. GraeeitaHs, 

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[Bk.n.Ch.L §2. 

applied to their King Simeon for protection ; and when the 
Emperor Leo, after repeated solidtations, took no steps to 
redress the injustice, the Bulgarian monarch declared war. 
An almost uninterrupted peace of seventy-four years had 
existed . between the sovereigns of Constantinople and Bul- 
garia, for only temporary and trifling hostilities had occurred 
since the treaty between Leo V. and Mortagan in 814. 
Bogoris — called, after his baptism, Michael — ^had governed 
his kingdom with g^eat prudence, and not only converted 
all his subjects to Christianity, but also augmented their 
means of education and wellbeing. His own religious views 
induced him to join the Eastern church, and he sent his 
second son Simeon to Constantinople for his education. 
Bogoris retired into a monastery, and left the throne to 
his eldest son Vladimir, about the year 885. The disorderly 
conduct of Vladimir drew his father from his retreat, who 
was compelled to dethrone and put out the eyes of this un- 
worthy prince, before immuring him in a monastery. He 
then placed his second son Simeon on the throne (a.d. 888), 
and retiring again to his cell, died a monk, A.D. 907. 

Simeon proved an able and active monarch. His educa- 
tion at Constantinople had enlarged his mind, but inspired 
him with some contempt for the meanness and luxury of the 
Byzantine court, and for the pedantry and presumption of the 
Greek people. He was himself both a warrior and a scholar, 
but he followed the military system of the Bulgarians, and 
wrote in his native language^. The Bulgarian nation had 
now attained the position occupied some centuries before by 
the Avars. They were the most civilized and commercial 
of all the northern barbarians, and formed the medium for 
supplying the greater part of Germany and Scandinavia with 
the necessary commodities from Asia, and with Byzantine 
manufactures and gold ^. This extensive and flourishing trade 
had gone on increasing ever since a treaty, fixing the amount 
of duties to be levied on the Byzantine frontier, had been 
concluded in the year 716, during the reign of Theodosius 
in. The stipulations of that treaty had always formed the 
basis on which the commercial relations between the two 

^ I follow Schafarik, Slawischi Alttr^mnur (ii. 185), in preferenoe to Ducange, 
TnntilitM ByzanHnat. 

■ Thcophylactus Simocatta says, \4yrrai ydp h roh iBvwi roik %in/0tMOit rb rmv 
*Kfi6fot¥ im^ai ivrp€xi<rrarw ^vAov, 175; Theoph. 431. 

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Aj). 886-9 1 a.] 

States had been re-established, at the conclusion of every war ; 
but now two Greek merchants, Staurakios and Kosmas, bribed 
Mousikos, a eunuch in the household of Stylianos, to procure 
an imperial ordinance for transferring the whole of the Bulga- 
rian trade to Thessalonica. These Greeks having farmed the 
customs, felt that they could carry on extortions at a distance 
which could not be attempted as long as the traders brought 
their goods to Constantinople and were under the immediate 
protection of the central administration ^ The monopoly, 
though it inflicted great losses both on the Greek and Bul- 
garian traders, was supported by the favourite minister of the 
emperor, who refused to pay any attention to the reclamations 
of the Bulgarian government in favour of its subjects. Simeon, 
who was not of a disposition to submit to contemptuous treat- 
ment, finding that he had no hope of obtaining redress by 
peaceable means, invaded the empire. The Byzantine army 
was completely defeated, and the two generals who com- 
manded it were slain in the first battle. But Simeon tarnished 
his glory by his cruelty; he ordered the noses of all the 
prisoners to be cut off, and sent the Byzantine soldiers, thus 
mutilated, to Constantinople. Leo, to revenge this barbarity, 
sent a patrician, Niketas Skleros, to urge the Hungarians, a 
Turkish tribe which had recently quitted the banks of the Don 
and occupied the country still possessed by their descendants, 
to attack the Bulgarians. They did so, defeated them, and 
sold their prisoners to the Emperor Leo, who was compelled, 
shortly after, to deliver them to Simeon, King of Bulgaria, 
without ransom, in order to purchase peace ; for the Magyars 
were defeated in a second battle, and retired from the contest. 
Leo, like many absolute sovereigns, had conceived too high an 
idea of his power and prerogatives to pay any respect to his 
engagements, when he thought it for his advantage to forget 
his promises. He took the earliest opportunity of seeking 
for revenge, and having assembled what he supposed was an 
invincible army, he sent Leo Katakalon, his best general, to 
invade Bulgaria. This army was completely destroyed at a 
place called Bulgarophygos, and after this lesson Leo was 
glad to conclude peace, A.D. 893^. 

* Contin. LtOy aao. 

* There is some difficulty in arranging the chronology of the Bulgarian war. 
Symeon Mag. 462. 

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About the same time the oppressive conduct of the imperial 
governor at Cherson caused an insurrection of the inhabitants, 
in which he was murdered. 

Leo, in spite of his title of *the Philosopher,' was not a 
man in whose personal history mankind can feel much interest 
Though his reign was undisturbed by rebellion or civil war, his 
life was exposed to frequent dangers. His concubine Zoe 
discovered a conspiracy against him, and another was revealed 
by the renegade Samonas, and became the origin of his great 
favour at court. The prime conspirator was scourged and 
exiled to Athens. In 902, an attempt was made to murder 
Leo in the church of St. Mokios by a madman, who was 
armed only with a stick. The blow was broken by the 
branch of a chandelier, yet the emperor received a severe 
wound \ 

Leo died in the year 91a, after a reign of twenty-five years 
and eight months. 

Sect. IIL — Alexander — Minority of Constantine VIL {Par- 
phyrogenitus) — Romanus /. {Lecapenus\ A.D. 9I2-944' 

Reign of Alexander, a.d. 912-913. — Minority of Constantine VII^ 9i3-9aa— 
Sedition of Constantine Dukas.— Byzantine sumy defeated by Simeon, King 
of Bulgaria. — Intrigues at Constantinople. — Romanus L makes himself em- 
peror, A.D. 920-944. — Conspiracies against his government. — Dethroned by 
his son Stephen. 

Alexander, who succeeded to the throne, or rather to the 
government of the empire, on the death of his brother Leo (for 
he had long borne tlie title of Emperor), was as degraded in 
his tastes, and more unfit for his station, than Michael the 
Drunkard. Fortunately for his subjects, he reigned only a 
year; yet he found time to inflict on the empire a serious 
wound, by rejecting the offer of Simeon, King of Bulgaria, to 
renew the treaty concluded with Leo. Alexander, like his 
predecessor, had a taste for astrology; and among his other 
follies he was persuaded that an ancient bronze statue of 
a boar in the Agora was his own genius. This work of art 
was consequently treated with the greatest reverence ; it was 
adorned with new tusks and other ornaments, and its reinte- 
gration in the hippodrome was celebrated as a public festival, 

' Contin. Leo^ 2 a a, 224, 225. 

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AJ). 91 2-944.] 

not only with profane games, but even with religious cere- 
monies, to the scandal of the orthodox *. 

Leo VI. undermined the Byzantine system of administra- 
tion. He used his absolute power to confer offices of the 
highest trust on the court favourites notoriously incapable of 
performing the duties intrusted to them. The systematic 
rules of promotion in the service of the government; the 
administrative usages which were consecrated into laws ; the 
professional education which had preserved the science of 
government from degenerating with the literature and lan- 
guage of the empire, were for the first time habitually 
neglected and violated. The administration and the court 
were confounded in the same mass, and an emperor, called 
the Philosopher, is characterised in history for having reduced 
the Eastern Empire to the degraded condition of an arbitrary 
despotism, Alexander carried this abuse to a greater extent, 
by conferring high commands on the companions of his 
debaucheries, and by elevating men of Sclavonian and Saracen 
origin to the highest dignities. 

The onlyjact of Alexander's reign that it is necessary to 
particularize, is the nomination of a regency to act during the 
minority of his nephew Constantine. The Patriarch Nikolaos, 
who had been reinstated in office, was made one of its mem- 
bers ; but Zoe Carbunopsina, the young emperor's mother, 
was excluded from it. 

Constantine VII. was only seven years old when he became 
sole emperor. The regency named by Alexander consisted 
of six members exclusive of the Patriarch, two of whom, 
named Basilitzes and Gabrielopulos, were Sclavonians, who 
had attained the highest employments and accumulated great 
wealth by the favour of Alexander^. The facility with which 
foreigners obtained the highest offices at Constantinople, and 
the rare occurrence of any man of pure Hellenic race in power, 

* Contin. 234 : troix^ov o.^o%i^ — olSom «al Mvrat ry xoW vpoffavty^waiy, [The 
word 9T<Hx^ot't which is here translated * genius,* originally signified 'element/ 
and was applied by the Platonists to the spirits which were believed to exist in 
the earth, air, fire, and water ; hence it passed into an appellation for demons 
in general. Amongst the modem -Greeks the domestic genius is generally supposed 
to assume the form of a snake, like the ' guardian serpent ' m the houses of the 
ancient Greeks and Romans. The modem Greek expression for ' bewitched ' or 
'enchanted * is OToix<«A>M^ot. En.] 

* CoQtm. 333. 

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is a feature of the Byzantine government that requires to be 

constantly borne in mind, as it is a proof of the tenacity with 

which the empire clung to Roman traditions, and repudiated 

an identification with Greek nationality. 

It is difficult, in the period now before us, to select facts 
that convey a correct impression of the condition, both of 
the government and the people. The calamities and crimes 
we are compelled to mention tend to create an opinion that 
the government was worse, and the condition of the inha- 
bitants of the empire more miserable, than was really the case. 
The ravages of war and the incursions of pirates wasted only 
a small portion of the Byzantine territory, and ample time was 
afforded in most districts by the long intervals of tranquillity 
to repair the depopulation and desolation caused by foreign 
enemies. The central government still retained institutions 
that enabled it to encounter many political storms that ruined 
neighbouring nations ; yet the weakness of the administration, 
the vices of the court, and the corruption of the people, during 
the reigns of Constantine Porphyrogenitus and his father- 
in-law Romanus I., seemed to indicate a rapid decay in the 
strength of the empire, and they form a heterogeneous com- 
bination with the institutions which still guaranteed security 
for life and property to an extent unknown in every other 
portion of the world, whether under Christian or Moham- 
medan sway. The merits and defects of the Byzantine 
government are not found co-existent in any other portion of 
history, until we approach modem times. 

Hereditary succession was never firmly established in the 
Byzantine empire^. The system of centralization rendered the 
prime-minister, who carried on the administration for a minor 
or a weak sovereign, virtually master of the empire. Against 
this danger Alexander had endeavoured to protect his nephew, 
by creating a regency of six members, no one of whom could 

' [It is to be remarked, however, that the idea of legitimacy in succession was 
originated and systematized by the Basilian emperors, and that this was the cause 
of the long duration of their dynasty. It was with a view to this that Basil I. 
established the custom that his descendants should be bom in the Porphyry 
chamber, so that the name Porphyrogenitus mi^ht become a title of Intimacy. 
The growth of the idea was shown by the way m which the people regarded Con- 
stantine Porphyrogenitus, and still more forcibly a century later, by the loyalty 
shown towaros the Empress Zoe, an aged, proffigate, and incapable woman, on 
account of the legitimacy of her descent. See Rambaud, VEmpirt grtc cm dixiem 
SthUi, pp. 34, 36. Ed.] 

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aspire at becoming the colleague of young Constantine. But 
the arbitrary nature of the imperial power created a feeling of 
insecurity in the minds of officials, as long as the supreme power 
was not vested in a single individual. This feeling inspired 
every man of influence with the hope of being able to render 
himself sole r^ent, and with the desire of assuming the title 
of Emperor, as the only method of permanently maintaining 
the post of guardian of the young prince. The most popular 
man of the time was Constantine Dukas, who had fled to the 
Saracens with his father Andronikos, in order to escape the 
anger of Leo VI. His father had embraced Mohammedanism, 
but Dukas had thrown himself on the mercy of Leo rather 
than forsake his religion, and had been rewarded by a com- 
mand on the south-eastern frontier. For three years he served 
with distinction, and his valour and liberality rendered him 
popular among the soldiers. The death of Alexander found 
him commanding a division of the Byzantine army in Asia 
Minor, with the rank of general of the imperial guard ; and a 
party of the officers of the state, knowing his ambition, fixed their 
eyes on him as the man most likely to overthrow the regency. 
Even the Patriarch Nikolaos was privy to the schemes of 
those who urged Dukas to repair secretly to Constantinople, 
for this ambitious ecclesiastic expected to exercise more 
authority over a young man possessing absolute power, than 
over six wary statesmen experienced in every department of 
public business. 

As soon as Dukas reached the capital, he was proclaimed 
emperor by his partisans, who had already prepared the 
troops and the people for a change ; and he marched immedi- 
ately to the palace of Chalke, where the young emperor 
resided, and of which he expected to gain possession without 
difficulty. His attack was so sudden that he rendered himself 
master of the outer court ; but the alarm was soon given, and 
all the entries into the palace were instantly closed. John 
Eladas, one of the members of the regency, assumed the 
command of the guards on duty, and a furious battle was 
fought in the court. The rebels were repulsed, and the horse 
of Dukas slipping on the flags of the pavement, he was slain. 
Three thousand men are said to have fallen in this short 
tumult, in which both parties displayed the most daring 
courage. The conspirators who fell were more fortunate than 


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those who were taken by the regemy, for these latter were 

put to death with inhuman cruelty; and the Patriarch was 

justly censured for the apathy he showed when men were 

tortured, of whose plots he had been cognizant^. Several 

persons of high rank were beheaded, and some were hung on 

the Asiatic shore opposite the imperial palace. The wife of 

Constantine Dukas was compelled to take the veil, and 

banished to her property in Paphlagonia, where she founded 

a monastery. Stephen, her only surviving son, was made 

a eunuch, and every other male of the noble house of Dukas 

perished on this occasion. The family that afterwards bore 

the name, and ascended the throne of Constantinople, was of 

more modem origin *. 

The affection of the young emperor for his mother, and the 
intrigues of the different members of the ri^ency, who expected 
to increase their influence by her favour, reinstated Zoe Car- 
bunopsina in the palace, from which she had been expelled by 
Alexander. As she had received the imperial crown, she 
shared the sovereign authority with the r^ents as a matter of 
right, and through the influence of John Eladas, she soon 
became the absolute mistress of the public a-dministration. 
Zoe thought of little but luxury and amusement. Her ad- 
ministration was unfortunate, and a complete defeat of the 
Byzantine anny by the Bulgarians created a general feeling 
that the direction of public affairs ought no longer to be 
intrusted to a woman of her thoughtless disposition. 

The evils inflicted on the inhabitants of Thrace by Simeon, 
king of Bulgaria, after his rupture with Alexander, equalled 
the sufferings of the empire during the earlier incursions of the 
Huns and Avars. In the year 913, shortly after Alexander's 
death, Simeon marched up to the walls of Constantinople 
almost without opposition; but he found the city too well 
garrisoned to admit of his remaining long in its vicinity: he 
retired, after an ineffectual attempt to settle the terms of 
a treaty in a conference with the Patriarch. In 914 he again 
invaded the empire, and in this campaign Adrianople was 
betrayed into his hands by its governor, an Armenian named 
Pankratakas, who, however, as soon as the Bulgarians retired, 
restored it to the Byzantine government. 

* Zonaras, ii. 184. 

' Zonaras, ii. 37a ; Leo Ckamm. 492 ; Ducange, Fcm, Byx, 160. 

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AJ). 91 a -944.] 

A Turkish tribe, called by the Byzantine writers Patzinaks, 
who contributed to destroy the flourishing monarchy of the 
Khazars, had driven the Magyars or Hungarians before them 
into Europe, and at this period had extended their settle- 
ments from the shores of the Sea of Azof and the falls of the 
Dnieper to the banks of the Danube. They were thus neigh- 
bours of the Russians and the Bulgarians, as well as of the 
Byzantine province of Cherson^. They were nomades, and 
inferior in civilization to the nations in their vicinity, by whom 
they were dreaded as active and insatiable plunderers, always 
ready for war and eager for rapine. The regency of the 
Empress Zoe, in order to give the people of Thrace some 
respite from the ravages of the Bulgarians, concluded an 
alliance with the Patzinaks, who engaged, on receiving a sum 
of money, to act in co-operation with the imperial forces. 
They engaged to attack the Bulgarians in the rear, on being 
furnished with the means of crossing the Danube by the 
Byzantine government. Zoe, in the mean time, trusting to 
n^otiations she was carrying on at Bagdad for securing 
tranquillity in Asia Minor, transferred the greater part of the 
Asiatic army to Europe, and prepared to carry the war into 
the heart of Bulgaria. A splendid army was reviewed at 
Constantinople, and placed under the command of Leo 
Phokas, a man possessing great influence with the aristocracy, 
and a high military reputation. Before the troops marched 
northward they received new arms and equipments ; liberal 
advances of pay were made to the soldiers, and numerous 
promotions were made among the officers. The second in 
command was Constantine the Libyan, one of the conspirators 
in the plot of Dukas, who had escaped the search of the 
regency until he obtained the pardon of Zoe's government. 
The fleet appointed to enter the mouth of the Danube, in 
order to transport the Patzinaks over the river, was placed 
under the command of Romanus the grand admiral. 

Leo Phokas pressed forward, confident of success ; but 
Romanus felt no inclination to assist the operation of one 
whom a successful campaign would render the master of the 

» The Patzinaks are called also Petchenejg;s. The Magyars are called Turks by 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in his curious work, Z)# Administrando Imptrio, 
<:. 4, 5. The Patzinaks, Magyars. Uzes and Kumans. who all made their first 
appearance in Europe about this time, were Turkish tribes. 

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empire. He is accused of throwing impediments in the way 
of the Patzinaks, and delaying to transport them over the 
Danube at the time and place most likely to derange the 
operations of the Bulgarians. The conduct of Leo was rash, 
that of Romanus treacherous. Simeon was enabled to con- 
centrate all his forces and fight a battle at a place called 
Achelous, in which the Byzantine army was defeated, with an 
immense loss both in officers and men^ (Mth August 91 7). 
Leo escaped to Mesembria, where he attempted to rally the 
fugitives ; but Romanus, as soon as he heard of the disaster, 
sailed directly to Constantinople without attempting to make 
any diversion for the relief of his countrymen, or endeavour- 
ing to succour the defeated troops as -he passed Mesembria. 
He was accused of treason on his return, and condemned to 
lose his sight ; but he retained possession of the fleet by the 
support of the sailors ; and the empress, who began to 
perceive her unpopularity, countenanced his disobedience, as 
she expected to make use of his support. 

The partisans of Leo openly urged his claims to be placed 
at the head of the administration, as the only man capable by 
his talents of preventing a revolution ; and the chamberlain 
Constantine urged Zoe to appoint him a member of the 
regency, and invest him with the conduct of public afiairs. 
The empress b^an to distrust Romanus, from the pre- 
ponderating power he possessed as long as the fleet remained 
in the vicinity of the capital. The fleet was therrfore ordered 
into the Black Sea; but Romanus had already received 
secret encouragement to oppose the designs of Leo from 
Theodore, the governor of the young emperor, and he delayed 
sailing, under the pretext that the sailors would not put to 
sea until their arrears were paid. The crisis was important ; 
so the chamberlain Constantine visited the fleet with the 
money necessary for paying the sailors, determined to hasten 

* Achelous seems to have been the name of both a river and fortress m Bul- 
garia. River : — Contin. 340 ; Symeon Mag. 476 ; Geor^. Mon. 569 ; Leo Gramm. 
491. Fortress: — Cedrenus, 613; see Krug. Chronologts dtr Byz. 130, noff. The 
defeat took place near Anchialus. Leo Diaconus, 124, edit. Bonn. The name 
Achelous seems to have misled Gibbon into a singular complicatioD of errors. 
His words are, * On classic ground, on the banks of the Acnelous, the Greeks 
were defeated : their horn was broken by the strength of the barbaric*Hercules.' 
He transports the battle into Greece, calls the .^liatic troops of Leo Phokas 
Greeks ; and grows more poetical than Ovid, whom he quotes. Dtduu and FaU^ 
vii. 68. 

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its departure, and perhaps to arrest the grand admiral. This 
step brought matters to an issue. Romanus seized the money 
and paid the sailors himself, keeping the chamberlain under 
arrest. This daring conduct on the part of a man hitherto 
considered as deficient in ambition as well as capacity, spread 
alarm in the palace, for it revealed to the empress that there 
was another pretender to supreme power. Zoe immediately 
despatched the Patriarch Nikolaos, and some of the principal 
officers of state, to induce the sailors to return to their 
allegiance ; but the populace, eager for change, and delighted 
to see the government in a state of embarrassment, attacked 
the envoys with stones, and drove them back into the palace. 
The empress, at a loss what measures to adopt, vainly sought 
for information concerning the causes of this sudden revolu- 
tion. At last Theodore, the young emperor's governor, 
declared that the conduct of Leo Phokas and the chamber- 
lain Constantine had caused the popular dissatisfaction, for 
Leo had ruined the army and Constantine had corrupted the 
administration. He suggested that the easiest mode of 
putting an end to the existing embarrassments would be for 
the young Emperor Constantine to assume the supreme 
power into his own hands. This was done, and the young 
prince, or rather his tutor Theodore in his name, invited the 
Patriarch and one of the regents named Stephen to consult 
on the measures to be adopted, though both were known to 
be hostile to his mother's administration. This produced an 
immediate revolution at court. The principal officers of state 
attached to the party of Phokas were dismissed from their 
employments, which were conferred on men pledged to 
support the new advisers of the young emperor. Leo, not 
knowing that Romanus was secretly connected with the new 
administration, proposed a coalition, but received from that 
wary intriguer only assurances of friendship and support. 
Romanus, however, was soon informed by his friend Theodore 
that the Patriarch and Stephen had resolved to remove him 
from his command, that they might render him as harmless 
as Leo : bold measures were therefore necessary, and with- 
out hesitation the admiral ranged his fleet in hostile array 
under the walls of the palace Bukoleon. His friends 
within, under the direction of the patrician Niketas, invited 
him to enter and protect the young emperor, and at the same U k i^i^i>M^ 

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time forced the Patriarch and Stephen to retire^. The 
Emperor Constantine had been already predisposed in favour 
of Romanus by his tutor, so that he received the insurgent 
admiral in a friendly manner. The young prince, accom- 
panied by the court, repaired to the chapel in Pharo, where 
Romanus took an oath of fidelity on the wood of the true 
cross, and was invested with the offices of grand master and 
grand heteriarch, or general of the foreign guards, on the ajth 
of March 919 ^. 

Before a month elapsed, the fortunes of Romanus were 
further advanced by the charms of his daughter Helena, 
Constantine VIL became deeply smitten with her beauty, 
and the ambition of the father precipitated the marriage in 
order to secure the title of Basileopater, which gave him 
precedence over every other officer of state, 27th April 
919. He was now even more than prime-minister, and his 
position excited deeper envy. Leo Phokas took up arms in 
Bithynia and marched to Chrysopolis (Scutari), declaring 
that his object was to deliver the young emperor from 
restraint ; but his movement was so evidently the result of 
disappointed ambition that he found few to support him, and 
he was soon taken prisoner and deprived of sight. Another 
conspiracy, having for its object the assassination of the 
Basileopater, also failed. The Empress Zoe was accused of 
attempting to poison him, and immured in a monastery. 
The governor Theodore, perceiving that he no longer enjoyed 
the confidence of the friend he had contributed to elevate, 
began to thwart the ambitious projects of Romanus, and was 
banished to his property in Opsikion. Romanus, finding that 
there was now nothing to prevent his indulging his ambition, 
persuaded his son-in-law to confer on him the title of Caesar, 
and shortly after to elevate him to the rank of emperor. 
He was crowned as the colleague of Constantine Porphyro- 

* This Niketas was a Sclavoniaii landed proprietor in the Peloponnesus, whose 
daughter was married to Christophoros the eldest son of Romanus. His ass4ikc 
Sclavonian visage, to use an expression which amused the courtiers of" Con- 
stantinople, and has troubled modem scholars, excited the spleen of his imperial 
relative. Compare Con tin. 243, Constant. Porphyr. D« Tkemat, 35, and note at 
p' 305 of this volume. 

* The date is given by the Contmuator (243) and Symeon Mag. (478). But 
the chronology of this period is reviewed with learning and accuracy by Krug, 
Kritischer Versuch zur Aufkl'drung der ByzatiHnischen Chronologie, mit besondinr 
RucLicht auf die fruhire Otschichtt Russlands; Petersburg, i8iO| p. 1 33, 


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genitus by the Patriarch Nikolaos in the Church of St. Sophia, 

on the 17th December 919 ^ 

Few men ever possessed the absolute direction of public 
affairs in the Byzantine empire without assuming the 
imperial title, even though they had no intention of setting 
aside the sovereign whose throne they shared. It was well 
understood that there was no other means of securing their 
position, for as long as they remained only with the rank of 
prime-minister or Caesar, they were exposed to lose their sight, 
or be put to death by a secret order of the sovereign, obtained 
through the intrigues of an eunuch or a slave. But as soon 
as they assumed the rank of emperor of the Romans, their 
person was sacred, being protected both by the law of high 
treason and the force of public opinion, which regarded the 
emperor as the Lord's anointed. Two of the greatest 
sovereigns who ever sate on the throne of Constantinople, 
Nicephorus 11. (Phokas) and John I. (Zimiskes), shared the 
throne with Basil II. and Constantine VIII., as Romanus I. 
did with Constantine VII. 

Romanus was a man of a weak character, who was neither 
distinguished by his birth, his talents, nor his services ^. The 
valour of his father, who saved the life of the emperor Basil 
during the Paulician war, obtained him promotion, but he 
rose to the highest rank without performing any exploit of 
which his flatterers could boast, and without gaining even a 
reputation for personal courage ^. To gratify his passion for 
pageantry, and secure the place of honour in the numerous 
ceremonies of the Byzantine court, he usurped the place of 
his son-in-law, and conferred the imperial crown on his own 
wife Theodora. He also conferred the rank of emperor on 
his eldest son Christophoros, and gave him precedence of the 
young Constantine Porphyrogenitus the hereditary sovereign. 
The successful career of a plebeian family was more offensive 
to the Byzantine aristocracy than the sudden elevation of a 
Sclavonian menial like Basil I., and awakened the ambition of 
a more numerous class of pretenders to the throne. The 
reign of Romanus was consequently disturbed by a series of 

> Krag, 140. 

* Hb son-in-law calls him an illiterate person of no rank : ^lli&mi* «ol d7p(£/i- 
IMiTM 6y$f»wm. Constant. Porphyr. D« Adm, Imp. p. 66. 
» See p. 245. 

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conspiracies, all having for their avowed object the restoration 
of Constantine Porphyrogenitus to his legitimate rights, 
though, probably, the real object of the conspirators was 
to gain possession of the power and position occupied by 
Romanus. In the year 921, the great officers of the em- 
pire—the grand-master of the palace, the minister of forti- 
fications, and the director-general of charitable institutions 
— were discovered plotting. Shortly after, a patrician, with 
the aid of the captain of the guard of Maglabites or 
mace-bearers^, undismayed by the preceding failure, again 
attempted to dethrone Romanus; and a third conspiracy, 
planned by the treasurer and keeper of the imperial plate, one 
of the chamberlains, and the captain of the imperial galley, 
was organized. All were discovered, and the conspirators 
were punished. In 924, BoYlas, a patrician, rebelled on the 
frontiers of Armenia, but his troops were defeated by the 
celebrated general John Kurkuas, and he was confined in a 
monastery. Again, in 926, one of the ministers of state and 
the postmaster-general formed a plot, which proved equally 

As years advanced, the feeble character of Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus became more apparent. His want of talent, 
and his devotion to literature and art, warned the ablest states- 
men to avoid compromising their fortunes by supporting the 
cause of one so little qualified to defend his own rights. 
Romanus, too, having assumed his three sons, Christophoros^ 
Stephanos, and Constantinos, as his colleagues, and placed 
his son Theophylaktos on the patriarchal throne, considered 
his power perfectly secure. The spirit of discontent was, 
nevertheless, very prevalent ; the people in the capital and 
the provinces were as little inclined to favour the usurping 
family as the nobility. An impostor, born in Macedonia, 
made his appearance in the theme Opsikion, where he an- 
nounced himself to be Constantine Dukas ; and though taken, 
and condemned to lose his hand like a common forger, he 
succeeded in raising a second rebellion after his release. He 
procured an artificial hand of brass, with which he wielded his 
sword ; the common people flocked round him, and resisted 

* When troops wore plate armour, the iron mace was a more effectual weapon 
than the sword in single combat. 

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A.D. 9x2-944.] 

the government with so much determination that he was cap- 
tured with difficulty, and, to revenge the display he had made 
of the weakness of Romanus' power, he was burned alive in 
the Amastrianon at Constantinople ^. 

In early life Romanus had been a votary of pleasure, but 
when the possession of every wish for three-and-twenty years 
had tamed his passions, he became a votary of superstition. 
Feelings of religion began to affect his mind, and at last 
he allowed it to be discovered that he felt some remorse for 
having robbed his son-in-law of his birthright, in order to 
bestow the gift on his own children, who treated him with 
less respect than their brother-in-law the lawful emperor. 
Stephanos, impelled by ambition, and perhaps fearing lest 
his father should place the sole direction, of the government 
in the hands of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, who after the 
death of Christophoros had been restored to the second place 
at court, resolved to secure the possession of supreme authority 
by deposing his father *. Romanus was seized by the agents 
of his son and carried off to the island of Prote, where he was 
compelled to embrace the monastic life. Constantinos, his 
younger son, though he had not been privy to the plot, readily 
joined in profiting by his father's ill-treatment. Such crimes, 
however, always excite indignation in the breasts of the 
people ; and in this case the inhabitants of Constantinople, 
hearing vague rumours of scenes of dethronement, banish- 
ment, and murder, in the imperial palace, became alarmed 
for the life of their lawful sovereign, Constantine Porphyro- 
genitus. They felt an attachment to the injured prince, whom 
they saw constantly at all the church ceremonies, degraded 
from his hereditary place ; his habits were known, many spoke 
in his praise, nobody could tell any evil of him. A mob 
rushed to the palace, and, filling the courts, insisted on seeing 
the lawful emperor. His appearance immediately tranquillized 
the populace, but hopes were awakened in the breasts of many 
intriguers by this sudden display of his influence. A new 
vista of intrigue was laid open, and the most sagacious states- 
men saw that the degradation of the usurping family was the 
only means of maintaining order. Every man in power be- 
came a partisan of his long-neglected rights, and Constantine 

* Contin. 261. * See Saulcy, E«ai, 231, and Sabatier, ii. 126. 

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Porphyrogenitus was proclaimed sole emperor without oppo- 
sition. The Emperors Stephanos and Constantinos were 
seized by the order of Constantine VII., while they were 
sitting at a supper-party, and compelled to adopt the monastic 
habit, a7th January 945 ^ 

Sect. IV. — Constantine VI L {Porphyrogenitus) — Romanus 11. 


Character of Constantine VII., a.d. 945-959 — Literary works. — Death. — Con- 
spiracies at court. — Pride of Byzantine govemiacnt. — ^Internal condition of 
the empire. — Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus. — Mainates.— Saracen ¥rar. — 
Bulgarian war.— Character of Romanus II., 959-963. — Conquest of Crete. 
— Condition of Greece. 

We are principally indebted to the writings of the Emperor 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, or to works compiled by his 
order, for our knowledge of Byzantine history during the latter 
half of the ninth and earlier half of the tenth centuries. His 
own writings give us a picture of his mind, for he generally 
communicates his information as it occurs to himself, without 
hunting for classic and ecclesiastical phrases, and seeking for 
learned allusions and antiquated words to confuse and astonish 
his readers, as was the fashion with most of the Byzantine 
nobles who affected the literary character. Of his person we 
have a correct description in the writings of his dependants. 
He was tall and well made, with broad shoulders, a long neck 
and a long face. This last feature is represented in caricature 
on some of the coins of his reign. His skin was extremely 
fair, his complexion ruddy, his eyes soft and expressive, his 

^ I may here correct Saulcy {Essai dt Classification des Svites moneiaires byzam- 
't^^i 334)* ^nd Victor Langlois, in the new edition of Lettres du Baron Marckami 
sur la Numismatique (89). Marchant was right in attributing the coins usually 
ascribed to Romanus II. to Romanus I. I possess three good examples of Con- 
stantine VII., with his long visage struck over Romanus, and also tliree of 
Constantine and Romanus II. stru(£ over Romanus I., which is certainly decisive. 
I own I had entertained no doubt of the correctness of Marchant's attribution 
before meeting with these examples, from the great number of the coins I had met 
with in the Peloponnesus, and which I supposed must have been brought to pay 
the troops Romanus I. employed there against the Sclavonians I possess a 
Romanus I., also struck over one of the incertains of John Zimiskes as they are 
called, but which appear to date from the reign of Basil I. The coins attributed 
by Saulcy (201) to Basil I. and Constantine his son, also belong, in some cases at 
least, to Basil II. and Constantine VIII. I possess a piece in copper, in which 
the youth of both princes leaves no doubt on the subject. 


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A.D. 945-963.] 

nose aquiline, and his carriage straight as a cypress. He was 
a lover of good cheer, and kept the best of cooks, and a cellar 
of excellent wine of the choicest kinds ; but he indulged in no 
excesses, and his morals were pure. He was reserved and 
mild in his intercourse with his familiars, eloquent and liberal 
to his dependants, so that we must not wonder that his pane- 
gyrists forgot his defects. In a despotic sovereign, such a 
character could not fail to be popular ^. 

Constantine's long seclusion from public business had been 
devoted to the cultivation of his taste in art, as well as to 
serious study. He was a proficient in mathematics, astro- 
nomy, architecture, sculpture, painting, and music. The 
works of his pencil were of course lauded as equal to the 
pictures by Apelles ; his voice was often heard in the solemn 
festivals of the church. An encyclopaedia of historical know- 
ledge — of which a part only has reached our time, but even 
this part has preserved many valuable fragments of ancient 
historians — and treatises on agriculture and the veterinary art, 
were compiled under his inspection ^. 

The historical works written by his order were a chronicle 
in continuation of the Chronography of Theophanes, embracing 
the period from the reign of Leo V. (the Armenian) to the 
death of Michael HI. The name of the writer is said to be 
Leontios. A second work on the same period, but including 
the reign of Basil I., was also written by Genesius ; and a 
third work, by an anonymous continuator, carried Byzantine 
history down to the commencement of the reign of his son 
Romanus H ^. 

The writings ascribed to Constantine himself are peculiarly 
valuable, for several relate to subjects treated by no other 
author*. The life of his grandfather, Basil I., tells some 

* Contin. 292. 

* The fragments relating to the later portion of Roman history are collected 
in the first volume of the edition of the Byzantine historians pubUshed at Bonn, 
Demppif EunaptU Petri Patrieiit Prisci^ Malchit Menandri historiarum quae super&un/^ 
1829. 8vo. 

' The attention of the Emperor Constantine was natarally directed to con- 
tinuing the work of Theoplmnes, as that celebrated annalist was his mother's 
uncle. De Adm. Imp. c xxii. p. 76, edit. Bonn. The continuation of Theophanes* 
and the history of the successors of Basil I., are contained in the volume of 
the Byzantine historians entitled Scriptores post Theophanem. Genesius was first 
printed in the Venetian edition, but a more correct text is given in the Bonn 

* [It is easy to depreciate, as some writers do, the learning and art of the 

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truths, from vanity, that an experienced flatterer would have 

concealed for fear of wounding family prided A short 

geographical notice of the themes or administrative divisions 

of the Byzantine empire -gives us the means of connecting 

mediaeval with ancient geography ^ But the emperor's most 

valuable work is a treatise on the government of the empire, 

written for the use of his son Romanus, which abounds with 

contemporary information concerning the geographical limits 

and political relations of the people on the northern frontier of 

the empire near the Black Sea, with notices of the Byzantine 

power in Italy, and of the condition of the Greeks and Scla- 

vonians in the Peloponnesus, of which we should otherwise 

know almost nothing ^. Two essays on military tactics— one 

relating to naval and military operations with the r^^lar 

troops of the empire, and the other to the usages of foreigners — 

contain also much information *. The longest work, however, 

that Constantine wrote, and that on which he prided himself 

most, was an account of the ceremonies and usages of the 

Byzantine court. It is probably now the least read of his 

writings, yet it gives us an exact description filled with curious 

details of the ceremonial by which men's minds were fettered, 

and which acted as an efficient power in governing and 

oppressing the most civilized races of mankind for several 

centuries ^. 

Byzantine emperors and people, and to characterize them as dull, pedantic, and 
conventional. But we must remember that it was the taste for these things which 
maintained the high level of cultivation that distinguished the Byzantines from 
the people of all other contemporary states, and caused the ancient literature 
to be preserved. The literary pursuits of emperors like Leo the Philosopher and 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus did much towards setting the feshion, which rendered 
studious habits popular. M. Rambaud well remarks {VEmpire grec au dixiefiM 
SiecU, p. 60), that in the ninth century the monastery is the centre of the intellectual 
movement, in the tenth the palace. The same writer (pp. 65 fbll.) gives a long 
list of the authors and artists of the age of Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Ed.] 

* The Life of Basil is contained in Scriptores post TTteophanem. 

^ [M. Rambaud (pp 164 foil.) adduces valid reasons for thinking that the Dt 
TTiematibus was a very early, as it certainly is a very crude, production of Con- 
stantine VII. He was probably not more than ao years old when he compiled it 
M. Rambaud remarks that the writer, while professing to give contemporary, 
really gives ancient, geography. He describes the empire as it was, not in the 
tenth, but in the sixth century. Ed.] 

' The works De Thematihus and De AdnUmstrando Imperio are contained in 
Banduri's Imperium Orimtale^ and in the Bonn collection. The work De Adm, Imp. 
was terminated in the year 952. Krug, 266. 

* The best edition of these treatises is contained in the sixth volume of the 
works of Meursius. 

* Part of the work De Caeremonits Aulae Byzantinae has been interpolated at a 
later period, and hence some have conjectured that the whole is the oompilation 

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A.D. 945-963.] 

The government of Constantine was on the whole mild 
and equitable, and the empire during his reign was rich and 
flourishing. When he became despotic master of the East, he 
continued to think and act very much as he had done in his 
forced seclusion. He displayed the same simplicity of manner 
and goodness of heart. His weakness prevented him from 
being a good sovereign, but his humanity and love of justice 
preserved him from being a bad one, and he continued all his 
life to be popular with the mass of his subjects. His kind 
disposition induced him to allow his son, Romanus H., to 
marry Theophano, a girl of singular beauty, and of the most 
graceful and fascinating manners, but the daughter of a man 
in mean circumstances. The Byzantine historians, who are 
frequently the chroniclers of aristocratic scandal, and whose 
appetite for popular calumny swallows the greatest improba- 
bilities, have recorded that Theophano repaid the goodness of 
the emperor by inducing Romanus to poison his father \ 
They pretend that the chief butler was gained, and that Con- 
stantine partook of a beverage, in which poison was mingled 
with medicine prescribed by his physician. Accident pre- 
vented hin*from swallowing enough to terminate his life, but 
the draught injured a constitution already weak. To recover 
from the languor into which he fell, he made a tour in 
Bithynia in order to enjoy the bracing air of Mount Olympus, 
and visit the principal monasteries and cells of anchorites, 
with which the mountain was covered. But his malady in- 
creased, and he returned to Constantinople to die, 9th 
November 959. 

The picture which we possess of the conduct of Constantine 
in his own family is so amiable, that we are compelled to 
reject the accusations brought against Romanus and Theo- 
phano ; — we can no more believe that they poisoned Constan- 
tine, than we can credit all the calumnies against Justinian 
recounted by Procopius. To perpetrate such a crime, Romanus 
would have been one of the worst monsters of whose acts 
history has preserved a record ; and a character so diabolical 

of the Emperor Constantine VIII. The only complete edition of the Notes is that 
of Bonn. It is edited with care, but wants an index, which would perhaps be 
more useful than a Latin translation. 

* Cedrenus (641) and Zonaras (ii. 195) both accuse Theophano and Romanus 
of parricide. 

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[ I. §4. 

would have revealed its inherent wickedness during the four 

years he governed the empire with absolute power. Yet he 

appears only as a gay, pleasure-loving, pleasure-hunting prince. 

His father and his sisters always regarded him with the 

tenderest affection. Agatha, the youngest, was her father's 

constant companion in his study, and acted as his favourite 

secretary. Seated by his side, she read to him all the official 

reports of the ministers ; and when his health b^an to fail, it 

was through her intermediation that he consented to transact 

public business. That such a proceeding created no alarming 

abuses, and produced neither serious complaints nor family 

quarrels, is more honourable to the heart of the princess than 

her successful performance of her task to her good sense and 

ability. It proves that affection, and not ambition, prompted 

her conduct. Historians and novelists may recount that 

Romanus, who lived in affectionate intercourse with such a 

father and sister, became a parricide, but the tenor of actual 

life rejects the possibility of any man acting suddenly, and for 

once, as a monster of iniquity \ 

The necessity of a safety-valve for political dissatisfaction, 
such as is afforded by a free press or a representative assem- 
bly, to prevent sedition, is evident, when we find a popular 
prince like Constantine exposed to numerous conspiracies. 
Men will not respect laws which appear to their minds to be 
individual privileges, and not national institutions. Conspira- 
cies then form an ordinary method of gambling for improving 
a man's fortune, and though few could aspire to the imperial 
throne, every man could hope for promotion in a change. 
Hence, we find a plot concocted to place the old Romanus 
I. again on the throne. Partisans were even found who 
laboured for the worthless Stephanos, who was successively 
removed to Proconnesus, Rhodes, and Mitylene. Constantinos 
also, who was transported to Tenedos and then to Samothrace, 
made several attempts to escape. In the last he killed the 
captain of his guards, and was slain by the soldiers. The 
conspirators in all these plots were treated with comparative 
mildness, for the punishment of death was rarely inflicted 
either by Romanus I. or Constantine VII. 

In spite of the wealth of the empire, and though the govem- 

* Contin. 286. 

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ment maintained a powerful standing army and regular navy, 
there were many signs of inherent weakness in the state. The 
emperors attempted to make pride serve as a veil for all defects. 
The court assumed an inordinate d^ree of pomp in its inter- 
course with foreigners. This pretension exposed it to envy; 
and the affectation of contempt assumed by the barbarians, 
who were galled by Byzantine pride, has been reflected through 
all succeeding history, so that we find even the philosophic 
Gibbon sharing the prejudices of Luitprand. Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus has fortunately left us an unvarnished pic- 
ture of this senseless presumption, written with the foolish 
simplicity of an emperor who talks of what a statesman would 
feel inclined to conceal. He tells of the diplomatic arts and 
falsehoods to be used in order to prevent foreign princes 
obtaining a dress or a crown similar to that worn by the 
emperor of Constantinople ; and he seems to consider this not 
less important than preventing them from obtaining the secret 
of Greek fire. Foreign ambassadors are to be told that such 
crowns were not manufactured on earth, but had been brought 
by an angel to the great Constantine, the first Christian em- 
peror ; that they have always been deposited in the sacristy of 
St Sophia's, under the care of the Patriarch, and are only to 
be used on certain fixed ceremonies. The angel pronounced 
a malediction on any one who ventured to use them, except 
on the occasions fixed by immemorial usage ; and the Emperor 
Leo IV., who had neglected this divine order, and placed one 
on his head, had quickly died of a brain fever. Similar tales 
and excuses were to be invented, in order to refuse the demands 
of princes who wished to intermarry with the imperial family. 
Any demand for Greek fire was to be eluded in the same 

The attachment of the people rendered the Patriarch at 
one time almost equal to the emperor in dignity, but the 
clergy of the capital were now more closely connected with 
the court than with the people. The power of the emperor 
to depose as well as to appoint the Patriarch was hardly . 
questioned, and of course the head of the Eastern church 
occupied a very inferior position to the Pope of Rome. The 
church of Constantinople, filled with courtly priests, lost its 

* Constant. Porphyr. De Adm. Imp, c 13. 

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political influence, and both religion: and civilisation suffered 
by this increase of the imperial power. From this period we 
may date the decline of the Greek church. 

The Patriarch Nikolaos, the mystic who had been deposed 
by Leo VI. for opposing his fourth marriage (a.d. 908), was 
reinstated by Alexander, who acted ia opposition to most 
of his brother's measures (a.D. 91a). After Romanus I. was 
established on the throne, Nikolaos yielded so far to the 
pre-eminence of the civil power as to consent to a union 
with the party of his successor, Euthymios, and to own that 
the marriage of Leo had been sanctified by the act of the 
Patriarch de facto. This was done to avoid what Nikolaos 
called scandal in the chur<:h ; but the political experience 
of the bigoted ecclesiastic having shown him that he must 
look for support and power to the emperor, and not to the 
people, he became at last quite as subservient to the court 
as the mild Euthymios had ever been. On the death of 
Nikolaos (925), Stephen the eunuch, archbishop of Amasia, 
was appointed his successor, who, after a patriarchate of three 
years, was succeeded by Tryphon (a.d, 938). Tryphon held 
the office provisionally until Theophylaktos, the son of the 
Emperor Romanus L, attained the full' age for ordination; 
but in order to avoid too great scandal in the church, Tryphon 
was deposed a year before Theophylaktos was appointed. 
The imperial youth was then only sixteen years of age, but 
his father obtained a papal confirmation of his election by 
means of Alberic, consul and patrician of Rome, who kept 
his own brother. Pope John XL, a prisoner at the time. Papal 
legates were sent to Constantinople, who installed Theophy- 
laktos in the patriarchal chair on the 2nd February 933. The 
highest order of priests in the Church, both in the East and 
West, insulted Christianity. The crimes and debauchery of 
the papal court were, however, more offensive than the ser- 
vility and avarice of the Greek hierarchy. John XL was 
appointed Pope at the age of twenty-five, through the in- 
fluence of his mother Marosia (a.D.^ 931). Marosia and her 
second husband, Guy of Tuscany, had dethroned, and it is 
supposed murdered, John X., of the family of Cenci. John XL, 
as we have mentioned, was imprisoned by his brother Alberic, 
and died in confinement, a victim to the political intrigues of 
his brother and his mother. Alberic ruled Rome for about 

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A.D. 945-963.] 

thirty years, and during that time the popes were only the 
patriarchs of the Latin church. On Alberic's death, his son 
Octavian succeeded him as patrician, and became Pope at 
the age of eighteen, under the name of John XII. (ad. 956). 
He is generally considered the greatest criminal that ever 
occupied the papal throne ^ 

The conduct of the Patriarch Theophylaktos was not much 
worse than might have been expected from a young man 
whose father had provided him with a bishopric, merely that 
he might enjoy a suitable rank and revenue. As long as his 
father could keep persons about the young man capable of 
controlling his conduct, outward decency was preserved ; but 
age soon rendered him independent of advice, and he openly 
indulged tastes extremely unsuitable to his ecclesiastical 
digfnity. He lived like a debauched young prince, and sold 
ecclesiastical preferments to raise money for his pleasures. 
He converted the celebration of divine service at St. Sophia's 
into a musical festival, adorned with rich pageantry. His 
passion for horses and for hunting exceeded that of the 
Emperor Basil I., and it caused his death, as it had done 
that of the imperial groom. The patriarchal stables are said to 
have contained two thousand horses. The magnificence of the 
building, and the manner in which his favourite steeds were 
fed, bathed, and perfumed, were at the time among the wonders 
of Constantinople. Once, as Theophylaktos was officiating 
at the high altar of St. Sophia's, a slave crept up to him and 
whispered that his favourite mare had foaled. The congre- 
gation was alarmed by the precipitation with which the 
* most holy ' pontiflf finished the service. The young Patriarch 
threw aside his ecclesiastical vestments as quickly as possible, 
and ran to the stable. After satisfying himself that every- 
thing was done for the comfort of the mare and foal, he 
returned to his cathedral to occupy his place in the proces- 
sion. The people of Constantinople submitted to receive 
religious instruction from this festival and hunting-loving 
Patriarch for twenty years ; but strange must have been the 
reports that circulated through the provinces of the empire 

* Baronius, Ann, EceUs, Bellarmine, according to Daunou, calls him almost 
the worst of the popes ; Dt Rom. Pont, ii. c. 29. Montor {Histoire des Souvtrains 
Ponttfes Romains, ii. 94) says, * Quant k Tautorit^ religieuse, il fut s^vire, naais, 
pape l^time, il usait d*un droit reconnu/ Historians doubt whether he was 
miirdered on account of his cruelties or his adulteries. 

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concerning the impious proceedings, profane songs, indecent 
dances, and diabolical ceremonies, with which he defiled the 
Church of the Divine Wisdom, could we look into the secret 
history of some provincial Procopius. The death of Theo- 
phylaktos was in keeping with his life. One of his horses, 
as self-willed as the Patriarch, and as unfit for its duty, 
dashed him against a wall. The accident brought on a 
dropsy, and he died in 956, after having too long di^raced 
the Greek church, and made St. Sophia's an opera-housed 
He was succeeded by Polyeuktos, an ecclesiastic whose 
parents had marked him out for an ecclesiastical life ^. 

It has been said that the general condition of the inha- 
bitants of the Byzantine empire was prosperous; but in 
a despotic government, any negligence on the part of the 
central administration is infallibly followed by cruelty and 
extortion on the part of some of its distant agents, who 
exercise a power too great to be left uncontrolled without 
the certainty of abuse. The weakness both of Romanus I. 
and Constantine VI I. allowed considerable disorder to pre- 
vail at Constantinople, and the grossest acts of tyranny to 
be committed in the provinces. Chases, a man of Saracen 
extraction, was raised to high office by the companions of 
the debauchery of Alexander, and was governor of the theme 
of Hellas during the minority of Constantine, His insatiable 
avarice and infamous profligacy at last drove the inhabitants 
of Athens to despair, and as he was attending divine service 
in the great temple of the Acropolis— once dedicated to the 
Divine Wisdom of the pagans— they rose in tumult, and 
stoned their oppressor to death at the altar^. A governor 

* These expressions are not stronger than those of Cedrenus (638), who was 
scandalized by the remains of the mummeries introduced into the cathedral service 
by TheophyUktos, and which were perpetuated to his time. 

' The practice of making children eunuchs to insure their promotion in the 
church was common at this time in the Byzantine empire. 

• Contin. 240. An anecdote recorded by the Byzantine writers deserves notice, 
though it may be an example of individual wickedness, not general demoraliza- 
tion. An Athenian named Rendakios (who may have been of Sclavonian descent, 
as he was a relative of the Patrician Niketas). ruined by debauchery and debt, laid 
a plot to murder his father. The old man quitted Athens to live in tranquillity at 
Constantinople, but was taken by pirates and carried to Crete. Rendaxios pre- 
tended that his father was dead, took possession of the family property, sold it, 
and removed to Constantinople. His attempt to commit parricide became known, 
and he was compelled to seek an asylum in the precincts of St. Sophia's ; but an 
order was given to arrest him. lie contrived to escape, and forged letters of 
recommendation from the Emperor Romanus to Simeon, king of Bul^ria, but was 
captured, and condenmed to lose his sight. Contin. 247^. 


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A.D. 945-963.] 

of Cherson had been murdered for oppression at the end 
of the reign of Leo the Philosopher. John Muzalon, the 
governor of Calabria, now shared the same fate. As no 
attention was paid by such officers to protecting the com- 
mercial lines of trade either by sea or land, the navigation 
of the Archipelago and the Adriatic was infested by pirates, 
and the great roads of Asia and Europe were dangerous from 
the bands of brigands who remained unmolested in their 
vicinity. Urso Participatio, the seventh doge of Venice, sent 
his son Petro to Constantinople to announce his election, and 
concert measures to protect the commerce of the Adriatic 
against the Saracen and Sclavonian pirates. Petro was 
honoured with the title of protospatharios, and received 
many valuable presents from the emperor. But no measures 
were adopted for protecting trade ; and the son of the doge 
of Venice was seized by Michael, duke of Sclavonia, as he 
was returning home, and delivered to Simeon, king of Bul- 
garia. The Sclavonian kept the presents, and the Bulgarian 
compelled his father to pay a large ransom for his release ^. 

Hugh of Provence, king of Italy, sent an embassy to 
Romanus I. The Sclavonians in the neighbourhood of Thes- 
salonica attacked the ambassadors ; but the Italians of their 
suite defeated the brigands, and captured several, whom they 
carried to Constantinople and delivered to the emperor for 
punishment 2. 

Weak, however, as the Byzantine empire may appear to 
us, it presented a very different aspect to all contemporary 
governments; for in every other country the administration 
was worse, and property and life were much more insecure. 
Its alUance was consequently eagerly sought by every inde- 
pendent state, and the court of Constantinople was visited 
by ambassadors from distant parts of Europe, Africa, and 
Asia. The Greeks were then the greatest merchants and 
capitalists in the world, and their influence was felt not only 

* Muratori, Annali d' Italia, v. 270 ; Le Beau, xiii. 403. 

■ The stepfaUier of Luitprand the historian, who was afterwards ambassador 
from Otho to Nicephorus II., was one of the envoys. Among the presents were 
two immense boar-hounds. These dogs were so enraged at the appearance the 
Emperor Romanus made in his imperial robes, for they took him for a wild 
animal, that they could hardly be held by their keepers from attacking him on his 
throne, they were so eager to worry him. Luitprand, De Rebus suo Tempore in 
Europa gestis, iii. c. 5 ; Muratori, v. 42 a ; Le Beau, xiii. 445. 

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[Bk.n.Ch.I. §4. 

by all the nations professing Christianity, but by the rival 

caliphs of Bagdad and Cordova, and the hostile Mohammedan 

princes of Egypt and Mauretania; it extended even to the 

Saxon monarchs of England ^ 

The Sclavonians of the Peloponnesus, who had gained a 
temporary independence during the latter part of the reign 
of Theophilus, remained tranquil from the time of their 
subjection by Theodora's regency, until the careless adminis- 
tration of Romanus I. again invited them to rebel. Two 
tribes, the Melings and Ezerites, who dwelt round Mount 
Taygetus in a state of partial independence, conceived the 
hope of delivering themselves from the Byzantine yoke, and 
boldly refused to pay the usual tribute *. Krinites Arotras, 
the general of the Peloponnesian theme, was ordered to 
reduce them to obedience ; but he was unable to make them 
lay down their arms until he had laid waste their country 
from March to November, without allowing them either to 
reap or sow. On their submission, their tribute was increased, 
and each tribe was obliged to pay six hundred byzants 
annually. But disturbances occurring not long afterwards 
among the Byzantine officers, and a new tribe called the 
Sclavesians entering the peninsula, the Melings and Ezerites 
sent deputies to the Emperor Romanus to solicit a reduction 
of their tribute. The peaceable inhabitants saw their pro- 
perty threatened with plunder and devastation if the Melings 
and Ezerites should unite with the Sclavesians; the central 
government was threatened with the loss of the revenues of 
the province; so the emperor consented to issue a golden 
bull, or imperial charter with a golden seal, fixing the tribute 
of the Melings at sixty gold byzants, and that of the Ezerites 
at three hundred, as it had been before their rebellion ^ 

The Sclavonian population of the Peloponnesus was not 
confined to the tributary districts; nor, indeed, were these 
the only Sclavonians who retained their own local adminis- 
tration. The whole country, from the northern bank of the 
Alpheus to the sources of the Ladon and Erymanthus, was 
inhabited by Sclavonians who governed it according to their 

* Kemble, The Saxons in England^ ii. Introd. p. x. 

* The classic name of Taygetus was already forgotten, and the mountain was 
called, as at present, Pentedaktylos. Const. Porph. Dt Adm, Imp. c 5a 

» See p. 166. 

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AJ>. 945-9^3.] 

national usages until the Crusaders conquered Greece. A 
considerable body of the Sclavonians adopted Byzantine 
manners, and some of the wealthiest contended for the 
highest places in the administration of the empire. The 
patrician Niketas took an active share in the intrigues which 
placed the imperial crown on the head of Romanus. His 
pride and presumption, as well as his Sclavonian descent, are 
ridiculed by the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 
though the patrician had formed an alliance with the imperial 
family \ 

From this time we hear nothing more of the Sclavonians 
settled in the Peloponnesus, until the peninsula was invaded 
by the Crusaders, after they had taken Constantinople, and 
established the Frank empire of Romania (A.D. 1204). 

The condition of the town of Maina and the district about 
Cape Taenarus presents us with a picture of the vicissitudes 
the Greeks had suffered during the decline of the Roman 
empire. The population of this rugged promontory consisted 
of the poorer class of agricultural Laconians, and it kept 
possession of this arid district when the Sclavonians seized 
the rich plain of the Eurotas and drove the Greeks out of 
Sparta. The strangers occupied all the rich pastures on 
Mount Taygetus, but want of water prevented their advance 
along the promontory of Taenarus, and the fortified town of 
Maina enabled the inhabitants to defend their liberty and 
support themselves by exporting oil. This secluded country 
long remained in a state of barbarism. The rural population, 
if it had ever embraced Christianity, soon relapsed into 
idolatry, from which it was not converted until the reign of 

* The daughter of Niketas was the wife of the Emperor Christophoros, the 
eldest son of Romanus I. The verse of a Byzantine poet, which Constantine 
mentions as applied to Niketas, has caused much, learned discussion. The words 
seem to say that the patrician had an ass-like Sclavonian visage— 

Di Tkgmatibus, ii. 6 ; Kopitar, Miscellanea Graecoslavica, p. 63. [All attempts to 
explain the first word in this line, which only occurs in this place, seem to have 
been unavailing. The original reading is yafia<r9ottd-^$, which according to 
Banduri« in his notes to the passage in Constant. Porphyr. (vol. iii. p. 296, edit. 
Bonn), seems to be used for y€povTott9^$ : this explanation is adopted by Schafarik 
(SlawUehe Altertkumir, ii. 192), but it appears to be a mere conjecture. Hopf (.in 
Brockhaus' Oruehenland, vi. 96 ; re-issue from Ersch and Gruber) explains it as 
' cunning.' Finlay's reading, yaSapotiifffi, * ass-like,* is also pure conjecture. The 
former part of this compound is yddapot or yai^poi, the latter of which forms is 
the regular Modem Greek word for a donkey. The derivation is seen in the 
earlier form dcfSopos (dc2, dipw), *the incessantly beaten;' see Ducange, s.v. 


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[Bk.II.Ch. I. {4. 

Basil I. In the time of Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the 

town of Maina was a place of some commercial importance, 

and was governed by an officer appointed by the general of 

the Peloponnesian theme ; but the district continued to pay 

only four hundred pieces of gold to the imperial treasury, 

which was the amount levied on it in the days of the Roman 

empire ^. 

It was fortunate for the Byzantine empire that the caliphate 
of Bagdad had lost its former military power, for if an active 
enemy on the southern frontier had taken advantage of the 
embarrassments caused by an enterprising warrior like 
Simeon, king of Bulgaria^ in the north, the empire might 
have been reduced to the deplorable condition from which it 
had been raised by the vigour of the Iconoclasts. But 
repeated rebellions had separated many of the richest pro- 
vinces from the caliphate, and the tyranny of a religious sway, 
that enforced unity of faith by persecution, had compelled 
heresy to appeal to the sword on every difference of opinion. 
This additional cause of ruin and depopulation, added to the 
administrative anarchy that was constantly on the increase 
in the caliph's dominions, had greatly weakened the Saracen 
power. The innumerable discussions which a formal ortho- 
doxy created in the Greek church were trifling in comparison 
with those which the contemplative tendencies of the Asiatic 
mind raised in the bosom of Islam. 

Several independent dynasties were already founded 
within the dominions of the caliph of Bagdad, which were 
disturbed by several sects besides the Karmathians. Yet, 
amidst all their civil wars, the Mohammedans made continual 
incursions into Asia Minor, and the Byzantine troops avenged 
the losses of the Christians by ravaging Syria and Mesopo- 
tamia. Slaves and cattle were carried off by both parties, 
whether victors or vanquished, so that the country became 
gradually depopulated ; and in succeeding generations We 
find the richest provinces between the Halys, the Euphrates, 
and the Mediterranean in a state of desolation. The suburbs 
of the towns were reduced to ashes ; valleys, once swarming 
with inhabitants, and cultivated witlv the spade, so that they 
could support millions, were reduced to sheep-walks. Curing 

^ D4 Adm, Imp. c. 50. p. 224, edit. Bonn. 

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AA 945-9^3.] 

the r^ency of Zoe, Damian, emir of Tyre, with a powerful 
fleet under his command, attacked Strobelos in Caria, but 
was repuked^ In the following year the Byzantine army 
made an irruption into the territories of Germanicia and 
Samosata, and carried off fifty thousand prisoners, according 
to the accounts of the Arabian historians. The empress- 
regent would have willingly concluded peace with the Saracens 
at this time, for she was compelled to transport the greater 
part of the Asiatic army into Europe to resist Simeon, king 
of Bulgaria, and it appears that a truce and exchange of 
prisoners took place. The Byzantine arms had been so much 
more successful than the Saracen during the preceding 
campaigns, that when all the Christians had been exchanged, 
the number of Mohammedans still unredeemed was so great 
that the caliph paid a hundred and twenty thousand pieces of 
gold for their release, according to the stipulated price fixed 
by the convention ^ 

Romanus I., who had obtained the throne by means of the 
support of the navy, appears to have paid more attention to 
keep it in good order than his predecessors. In the year 
926, Leo of Tripolis, who visited the Archipelago, seeking to 
repeat his exploits at Thessalonica, was encountered in the 
waters of Lemnos by the imperial squadron under John 
Radenos, and so completely defeated that it was with diffi- 
culty he saved his own ship. 

The wars of the Karmathians brought the caliphate into 
such a disturbed state that the Christians of Armenia again 
raised their banner, and, uniting their forces with the 
Byzantine generals, obtained great successes over the 
Saracens. John, the son of that Kurkuas who had been 
deprived of sight for conspiring against Basil I., was appointed 
commander-in-chief by Romanus, and commenced a career 
of conquest ably followed up a few years later by the 
Emperor Nicephorus II. and John I. (Zimiskes). The 
military skill of John Kurkuas, tJie high discipline of his 
araiy, and the tide of conquest which flowed with his presence, 

* Strobelos was the ancient Myndos. It is called an island by the Byzantine 
writers from its peninsular situation. Constant. Porphyr., D* Thtm. p. 15, edit. 

* Weil. Gticldckf d$r CkaliftH, ii. 635. The Byzantine ambassador waa at 
Bagdad in July 917. 

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revived aspirations of military renown long dormant at Con- 
stantinople. The learned were pleased to compare him with 
Trajan and Belisarius, the heroes of the Western and Eastern 

As early as the reign of Leo VI., the Armenians under 
Melias had made considerable progress. The territory they 
delivered from the yoke of the Mohammedans was formed 
into a small theme, called Lykandos, and Melias was named 
its general, with the rank of Patrician ^. From the year 920 
to 94a, John Kurkuas was almost uninterruptedly engaged 
against the Saracens. In 927 he ravaged the province of 
Melitene, and took the capital, of which, however, he only 
retained possession for a months Two years after, the 
Saracen emir of Melitene, finding himself unable to resist 
the Byzantine armies, engaged to pay tribute to the emperor. 
In the mean time, the Armenians, with the assistance of a 
division of Byzantine troops, had pushed their conquests to 
the lake of Van, and forced the Saracens of Aklat and Betlis 
not only to pay tribute, but to allow the cross to be elevated 
in their cities higher than the domes of their mosques. The 
long series of annual incursions recorded by the Byzantine 
and Arabian writers may be described in the words plunder, 
slavery, depopulation. In the campaign of 941, the Byzan- 
tine troops are said to have reduced fifteen thousand Saracens 
to slavery. But the exploit which raised the reputation of 
John Kurkuas to the highest pitch of glory was the acquisi- 
tion of the miraculous handkerchief, with a likeness of our 
Saviour visibly impressed on its texture ; a relic which the 
superstition of the age believed had been sent by Christ 
himself to Abgarus, prince of Edessa. In the year 942, John 
Kurkuas crossed the Euphrates, plundered Mesopotamia as 
far as the banks of the Tigris, took Nisibis, and laid siege to 
Edessa. The inhabitants of the city purchased their safety 
by surrendering the miraculous handkerchief. The victorious 
general was removed from his command shortly after, and 
the relic was transported to Constantinople by others ^ 

^ CoDstant. Porphyr., Dt Adm, Imp, c. 50. p. aaS. 
. ■ Contin. 257 ; Weil, ii. 637. 

» Georg. Mon. 590 ; Contin, a68 ; Knig, 225. In this age there was a 
vehement desire to gain possession of relics. Chamich, History qf Armmia^ iL 

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The parallel drawn by the people of Constantinople 
between Belisarius and John Kurkuas seems imperfectly 
borne out by the conquests of the later general; but the 
acquisition of a relic weighed, in those days, more than that 
of a kingdom. Yet, perhaps, even the miraculous portrait of 
Edessa would not have been compared with the conquest of 
the Vandal and Gothic monarchies, had the two-and-twenty 
years of John Kurkuas's honourable service not been repaid 
by courtly ingratitude. In the plenitude of his fame, the 
veteran was accused of aspiring at the empire, and removed 
from all his employments. Romanus I., like Justinian, when 
he examined the accusation, was convinced of its falsity, but 
he was jealous and mean-spirited \ 

During the government of Constantine VII., the war was 
continued with vigour on both sides. Self Addawalah, the 
Hamdanite, called by the Greeks Chabdan, who was emir of 
Aleppo, invaded the empire with powerful armies^. Bardas 
Phokas, the Byzantine general, displayed more avarice than 
energy; and even when replaced by his son Nicephorus, the 
future emperor, victory was not immediately restored to the 
imperial standards. But towards the end of Constantine's 
reign, Nicephorus, having reformed various abuses both in the 
military and civil service, arising from the traffic in plunder 
and slaves captured in the annual forays of the troops, at last 
led an army into the field calculated to prosecute the war with 
glory. The result of these preparations became visible in the 
reign of Romanus II. 

After the conquest of Crete, the whole disposable force of 
the empire in Asia was placed under the command of Nice- 
phorus, who, according to the Arabians, opened the campaign 
of 962 at the head of one hundred thousand men^ The 
Saracens were unable to oppose this army in the field ; 
Doliche, Hierapolis, and Anazarba were captured, and Nice- 
phorus advanced to Aleppo, where Seif Addawalah had collected 

' Manuel, a judge and protospatharios, wrote a work in eight books on the 
exploits of John Kurkuas. As the holy handkerchief of Edessa was brought to 
Constantinople after his disgrace, 15th August 943, his name is not mentioned 
by the servile historians of the empire in connection with its capture. This fact 
shows to what extent these writers conceal the truth. Compare Contln. 265, and 
Kru^, 224. 

• Leo Diaconus, wo/t, p. 415, edit. Bonn; D'Herbelot, Hamadcm ben Hamdoun;. 
Weil, iii. 14. 

* Leo Diaconus, 378, edit Bonn. 

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an army to protect his capital. The position of the Ham- 
danite was turned by the superior tactics of the Byzantine 
general, his communications with his capital cut off, his army 
defeated, and the suburbs of Aleppo occupied. A sedition of 
the Arab troops, and a quarrel between the inhabitants and 
the garrison, enabled Nicephorus to enter the city; but the 
citadel defied his attacks. On the approach of a Saracen 
army from Damascus, Nicephorus abandoned his conquest, 
carrying away immense booty from the city of Aleppo, but he 
retained possession of sixty forts along the range of Mount 
Taurus as the result of his campaign. 

The disastrous defeat of the Byzantine army by the Bulga- 
rians at Achelous was the primary cause of the elevation of 
Romanus I. to the throne; and as emperor, he conducted 
the war quite as ill as he had directed the operations of the 
fleet when admiral, though he could now derive no personal 
advantage from the disasters of his country. In 921, the 
warlike monarch of the Bulgarians advanced to the walls of 
Constantinople, after defeating a Byzantine army under John 
Rector. The imperial palace of the fountains, and many 
villas about the city, were burned before Simeon retired with 
his booty. The city of Adrianople was taken in one 
campaign by treachery, lost and reconquered in another by 
famine^. In the month of September 923, Simeon again 
encamped before the walls of Constantinople, after having 
ravaged the greater part of Thrace and Macedonia with 
extreme barbarity, destroying the fruit-trees and burning the 
houses of the peasantry. He offered, however, to treat of 
peace, and proposed a personal interview with Romanus I., 
who was compelled to meet his proud enemy without the 
walls, in such a way that the meeting had the appearance 
of a Roman emperor suing for peace from a victorious bar- 
barian. Romanus, when he approached the ground marked 
out for the interview, saw the Bulgarian army salute Simeon 
as an emperor with loud shouts and music, while the body- 
guard of the Bulgarian king, resplendent with silver armour, 
astonished the people of Constantinople by its splendour, and 

^ The second capture of Adrianople is placed by all the Byzantine writers in the 
loth indiction, a.d. 921 ; but Krug gives reasons for placing it in the year 923. 
Chron. der Byz. 155. 

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A.D. 945.963.] 

the veteran soldiers of the empire by its steady disciplined 
It seems that the rebellion of the Sclavonians in the Pelopon- 
nesus filled Romanus with anxiety ; but he affected to solicit 
peace from motives of religion and humanity, that he might 
alleviate the sufferings of his subjects. The basis of peace 
was settled at this conference, and Simeon retired to his own 
kingdom laden with the plunder of the provinces and the gold 
of the emperor. The Byzantine writers omit to mention any 
of the stipulations of this treaty, so that there can be no 
doubt that it was far from honourable to the empire. It 
must be remarked, however, that they are always extremely 
negligent in their notice of treaties, and have not transmitted 
to us the stipulations of any of those concluded with the 
Khazars, or other nations through whose territory a great part 
of the commercial intercourse of the Byzantine empire with 
India and China was carried on, and from which the wealth of 
Constantinople was in a great measure derived. There can 
be no doubt, however, that one of the stipulations of this 
treaty was the public acknowledgment of the independence of 
the Bulgarian church, and the official recognition of the arch- 
bishop of Dorostylon as Patriarch of Bulgaria, both by the 
emperor and the Patriarch of Constantinople ^. 

Simeon then turned his arms against the Servians and 
Croatians. His cruelty in these hostilities is said to have 
surpassed anything ever witnessed. The inhabitants were 
everywhere deliberately murdered, and all Servia was so 
depopulated that its richest plains remained uncultivated for 
many years. Every inhabitant not slain was carried into 
Bulgaria to be sold as a slave; and the capital was so 

' Simeon is supposed to have formed an alliance with the Pope, who sent him a 
roj'al crown to reward his hostilities against the Byzantine empire and church. 
Schafarik, Sletwische AUerthumer^ ii. 187. 

' The fact is proved by the list of the primates of Bulgaria given by Ducange, 
Fam. Aug, Byz, 175. The patriarchal dignity in Bulgaria was abolished by John 
I. (Zimiskes), when he conquered the country in 972. The Greek writers err, 
therefore, when they assert that the head of the Bulgarian church was never offici- 
ally recognized as a patriapch by the church of Constantinople. Le Quien, Oriens 
Chriitianus (i. 1237, and ii. 287), and Neale's History of the Holy Eastem'Church 
(voL 1. p. 44), afford no information on this curious question. The Bulgarian 
church Deaime again independent under Samuel, when the Archbishop of 
Justiniana Prima transferred his residence from Skopia to Achrida and assumed 
the authority and rank of patriarch of the Bulgarian church. [This point has 
assumed considerable practical importance since 1861, when the agitation com- 
menced on the part of the Bulgarian church to free themselves from the jurisdiction 
of the Patriarch of Constantinople. £0.] 

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completely destroyed, tKat, seven years after the retreat of 
the invaders, only fifty men were found in its vicinity, living 
as hunters ^ At last the Bulgarian army was completely 
defeated by the Croatiails, whom the cruelty of Simeon had 
driven to despair. Simeon died shortly after, and Servia 
placed itself under the protection of the Byzantine govern- 

Bulgaria was formidable at this time by the talents of 
Simeon rather than its own power. It was now threatened 
with invasion by the Magyars, who were carrying on plun- 
dering incursions into Germany, Italy, and even into France. 
Peter, who succeeded his father Simeon, was anxious to 
secure his southern frontier by forming a close union with 
the empire : he married Maria, the daughter of the Emperor 
Christophoros, and a long i>eace followed tliis alliance. But 
the ties of allegiance were not very powerful among the 
Bulgarian people, and a rebellion was headed by Michael 
the brother of Peter. The rebels maintained themselves in 
a state of independence after Michael's death; and when 
they were at last compelled to emigrate, they entered the 
territory of the empire, and, passing through the themes of 
Strymon, Thessalonica, and Hellas, seized on Nicopolis, and 
retained possession of that city and the surrounding country 
for some time. It seems that the incursion of Sclavesians 
into the Peloponnesus was connected with this inroad of the 

Thrace had not enjoyed sufficient respite from the ravages 
of the Bulgarians to recover its losses, before it was plundered 
by the Hungarians, who advanced to the walls of Constan- 
tinople in 934*. The retreat of these barbarians was pur- 
chased by a laige sum of money, paid in the Byzantine gold 
coinage, which was then the most esteemed currency through- 
out the known world. In 943, the Hungarians again ravaged 
Thrace, and their retreat was again purchased with gold*. 

* Servia was ravaged in 927. Constant. Porphyr. /)« Adm, Imp. c 3a. We 
may compare the way in which Simeon laid waste and depopulated Servia with 
that in which William the Conqueror treated Northumberland from policy, and 
the New Forest for amusement. Hume, Hist, 0/ England, c iv. 

* Cedrenus, 6a8 ; m« above, p. 304. 

" Contin. a6a ; Symeon Mag. 488 ; Georg. Mon. 588 ; Leo Gramm. 506. 

* A Hungarian prince named Bulograd visited Constantinople about 950, and 
was baptized. He was subsequently taken prisoner while engaged plundering in 
Germany, and hung by the Emperor Otho. Cedrenus, 636; Kn^i 264. 

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AJ». 945-963] 

The last year of the reign of Coriistantine VII. was again 
marked by an invasion of the Hungarians, who approached 
Constantinople ; but on this occasion they were defeated by 
the imperial troops, who attacked their camp during the 
night ^. 

The Byzantine wars in Italy present a series of vicissitudes 
connected with political intrigues, based on no national object, 
and leading to no general result. The imperial governors 
at times united with the Saracens to plunder the Italians, and 
at times aided the Italians to oppose the Saracens ; some- 
times they accumulated treasures for themselves, and at others 
extended the influence of the emperor. One of the Byzantine 
governors, named Krinitas, carried his avarice so far as to 
compel the people of Calabria (Apulia) to sell their grain at 
a low price, and then, having created a monopoly of the 
export trade in his own favour, sold it at an exorbitant profit 
to the Saracens of Africa. Constantine VII., hearing of this 
extortion, dismissed him from all employment, and confiscated 
his wealth ; but the people who were governed by deputies pos- 
sessing such powers were sure to be the victims of oppression ^. 

During the r^ency of Zoe (a.d. 915), Eustathios, the 
governor of Calabria, concluded a treaty with the caliph of 
Africa, by which the Byzantine authorities in Italy were 
bound to pay a yearly tribute of 2iJ,ooo gold byzants, and 
the caliph engaged to restrain the hostilities of the Saracens 
of Sicily. This tribute was subsequently reduced to 11,000 
byzants, but the treaty remained in force until the reign of 
the Emperor Nicephorus 11.^ Even this distant province in 
the south of Italy was not safe from the plundering incursions 
of the Hungarians, who in the year 948 embarked on the 
Adriatic, and ravaged Apulia under the walls of Otranto. 
The general interests of Christianity, as well as the extent 
of Byzantine commerce, induced the Byzantine government 
to aid Hugh of Provence and the Genoese in destroying the 
nest of Saracen pirates established at Fraxinet, in the Alps, 
to the eastward of Nice* 

Romanus II. was only twenty-one years of age when he 
ascended the throne. He bore a strong resemblance to his 

' Contin. a88; Symeon Mag. 496. * Cedrcnus, 65 a. 

' CedrenaSi 653. f Muratori, Annoli cTIialia, v. 319. 


by Google 



father in person, and possessed much of his good-nature and 
mildness of disposition, but he was of a more active and 
determined character. Unfortunately, he indulged in every 
species of pleasure with an eagerness that ruined his health 
and reputation, though his judicious selection of ministers 
prevented its injuring the empire. He was blamed for in- 
humanity, in compelling his sisters to enter a monastery; but 
as his object was a political one, in order to prevent their 
marriage, he was satisfied with their taking the veil, though 
they refused to wear the monastic dress ; and he allowed 
them to live as they thought fit, and dispose of their own 
private fortunes at will. His own object was obtained if he 
prevented any of the ambitious nobles from forming an 
alliance with them, which would have endangered the here- 
ditary right of his own children. His good-nature is avouched 
by the fact, that when Basilios — called the Bird, a favourite 
minister of his father — engaged a number of patricians in 
a conspiracy to seize the throne, he allowed none of the 
conspirators to be put to death. Though he spent too much 
of his time surrounded by actors and dancers, both the 
administration of civil and military affairs was well conducted 
during his reign. His. greatest delight was in hunting, and 
he spent much of his time in the country surrounded by his 
gay companions, his horses, and his dogs. His excesses in 
pleasure and fatigue soon ruined his constitution ; but when 
he died at the age of twenty-four, the people, who remembered 
his tall well-made figure and smiling countenance, attributed 
his death to poison. His wife, whose beauty and graceful 
manner never won the public to pardon a low alliance, which 
appeared to their prejudices to disgrace the majesty of the 
purple, was accused of this crime, as well as of having insti- 
gated the death of her father-in-law^. Romanus on his 
death-bed did not n^lect his duty to the empire. He had 
observed that his able prime-minister, Joseph Bringas, had 
begun to manifest too great jealousy of Nicephorus Phokas ; 
he therefore left it as his dying injunction that Nicephorus 
should not be removed from the command of the army em- 
ployed against the Saracens. 
Joseph Bringas, who conducted the administration during 

' Leo DiacoDus, 31, edit. Bonn. 

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AJ>. 945-9^3.] 

the reign of Romanus II., was a man of talent and int^^ty. 
His worst act, in the eyes of his contemporaries, was, that he 
withdrew an eunuch, named John Cherinas, from a monastery 
into which he had been exiled by Constantine VII., and 
conferred on him the dignity of patrician, with the command 
of the foreign guards. The patriarch protested in vain against 
this act of sacril^e ; Bringas wanted a man to command the 
guard, over whom he knew the leading nobles could exercise 
no influence ; so the monk quitted his frock, put on armour, 
and became a leading man at court. Sisinios, one of the 
ablest and most upright men in the public service, was made 
prefect of Constantinople, and rendered the administration of 
justice prompt and equitable. A general scarcity tried the 
talents and firmness of Bringas, and he met the difficulty by 
great exertions, though it occurred at a time when it was 
necessary to make extraordinary preparations to provision 
the expedition against Crete. Every measure to alleviate the 
public distress was taken in a disinterested spirit. Every- 
thing required for the army was immediately paid for; to 
prevent speculation in com, the exportation of provisions 
from the capital was prohibited— a law which may often be 
rendered necessary as a temporary measure of police, though 
it is a direct violation of the permanent principles of sound 
commercial policy. 

The great event of the reign of Romanus II. was the 
conquest of Crete. The injury inflicted on Byzantine com- 
merce by the Saracen corsairs, fitted out in the numerous ports 
on the north side of that island, compelled the inhabitants of 
many of the islands of the Archipelago to purchase protection 
from the rulers of Crete by the payment of a regular tribute. 
The trade of Constantinople and its supplies of provisions 
were constantly interrupted, yet several expeditions against 
Crete, fitted out on the lai^est scale, had been defeated. 
The overthrow of that undertaken in the reign of Leo VI. 
has been noticed ^. Romanus I. was unwilling to revive the 
memory of his share in that disaster, and left the Cretans 
undisturbed during his reign ; but Constantine VII., towards 
the end of his reign, prepared an expedition on a very grand 
scale, the command of which he intrusted to an eunuch named 

* Sec p. 378. 

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Gongyles. This expedition was completely defeated ; the 
Byzantine camp was taken, and the greater part of the force 
destroyed. Gongyles himself escaped with difficulty ^ 

Romanus was hardly seated on the throne before he 
resolved to wipe off" the disgrace the empire had suffered. 
The only mode of protecting the commerce of the capital 
and the coasts of Greece was to conquer the island of Crete 
and expel the Saracen population. Romanus fitted out an 
expedition on a scale suitable for this undertaking, and 
entrusted its command to Nicephorus Phokas, a general 
equal to the enterprise. Bringas aided the emperor with 
zeaKand energy, and gave no countenance to the endeavours 
that some courtiers made to awaken the jealousy of Romanus, 
that too much glory might accrue to Nicephorus from the 
successful termination of so great an undertaking. 

The expedition was strong in numbers and complete in its 
equipments. The fleet consisted of dromons and chelands. 
The dromon was the war-galley, which had taken the place 
of the triremes of the ancient Greeks and the quinqueremes of 
the Romans ; it had only two tiers of rowers, and the largest 
carried three hundred men, of whom seventy were marine 
soldiers. The chelands were smaller and lighter vessels, 
adapted for rapid movements, fitted with tubes for launching 
Greek fire, and their crews varied from \%o to i6o men. 
More than three hundred large transports attended the ships 
of war, freighted with military machines and stores ^. We are 
not to suppose that the dromons and chelands were all fitted 
for war ; a few only were required for that purpose, and the 
rest served as transports for the army and the provisions 
necessary for a winter campaign. The land forces consisted 
of chosen troops from the l^ons of Asia and Europe, with 
Armenian, Sclavonian, and Russian auxiliaries. The port 
of Phygela, near Ephesus, served as the place of rendezvous 
for the ships collected from the coasts of Greece and the 
islands of the Aegean ^. Everything was ready in the month 

^ Leo Diaconus, 6, edit. Bonn; Cedrenus, 640; Zonaras, ii. 195; Constant 
Porphyr. De Caerem. Aulae Byz. ii. c. 45 ; vol. i. 664, edit. Bonn ; Krug, 293. 

' Symeon Mag. (498) gives us the enumeration of the vessels composing die 
expedition. He says there were a thousand dromons, two thousand chelandia, 
and three hundred and sixty transports, and he is an author deserving attention. 
Our admiralty built at one time a dass of ships called donkey frigates ; perhaps 
Uie Byzantine government was no better advised. 

' Strabo calU it Pygela, xiv. p.'639 ; Contin. 397 ; Symeon Mag. 498. 

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AJ). 945-963.] 

of July 960, and Nicephorus disembarked his troops in Crete 
without sustaining any loss, though the Saracens attempted to 
oppose the operation. The city of Chandax was prepared to 
defend itself to the last extremity, and the Mohammedans in 
the rest of the island were active in resisting the progress of 
the Byzantine troops, and preventing their deriving any 
supplies from the interior. Chandax was too strongly forti- 
fied to be taken without a regular siege, so that the first 
operation of Nicephorus was to invest it in form. To insure 
the fall of the place even at the risk of prolonging the siege, 
he b^an his operations by forming a complete circumvalla- 
tion round his camp and naval station, which he connected 
with the sea on both sides of the city, and thus cut off the 
besieged from all communication with the Saracens in the 
country. The pirates of Chandax had often been at war with 
all the world, and they had fortified their stronghold in such 
a way that it could be defended with a small garrison, while 
the bulk of their forces were cruising in search of plunder. 
The repeated attacks of the Byzantine emperors had also 
warned them of the dangers to which they were exposed. 
Towards the land, a high wall protected the city; it was 
composed of sun-dried bricks, but the mortar of which they 
were formed had been kneaded with the hair of goats and 
swine into a mass almost as hard as stone, and it was so 
broad that two chariots could drive abreast on its summit. 
A double ditch of great depth and breadth strengthened the 
work, and rendered approach difficult. 

One of the parties sent out by Nicephorus to complete the 
conquest of the island having been cut off, he was compelled 
to take the field in person as soon as he had completed his 
arrangements for blockading the fortress during the winter. 
The Saracens, encouraged by their success, assembled an 
army, and proposed attempting to relieve the besieged city, 
when they were attacked in their position, and routed with 
great loss. The Byzantine general, in order to intimidate the 
defenders of Chandax, ordered the heads of those slain in the 
country to be brought to the camp, stimulating the activity 
of his soldiers in this barbarous service by paying a piece of 
silver for every head. They were then ranged on spears 
along the whole line of the circumvallation towards the 
fortifications of the city ; and the number of slain was so 

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[Bk. n. Ch. L ( 4. 

great, that many more were cast into the place by means of 

catapults, in order to let the besi^ed see the full extent of 

the loss of their countrymen. 

A strict blockade was maintained during the whole winter. 
When the weather permitted, light galleys cruised before the 
port, and at all times several of the swiftest dromons and 
chelands were kept ready to pursue any vessel that might 
either attempt to enter or quit the port. But though the 
Saracens were reduced to great privations, they showed no dis- 
position to surrender, and Nicephorus pressed on the siege as 
spring advanced with mines and battering-rams. At last a 
practicable breach was effected, and the place was taken by 
storm on the 7th of May 961 ^. The accumulated wealth of 
many years of successful piracy was abandoned to the troops, 
but a rich booty and numerous slaves were carried to Con- 
stantinople, and shown in triumph to the people. 

To complete the conquest of the island, it was necessary to 
exterminate the whole of the Saracen population. To effect 
this, the fortifications of Chandax were levelled with the 
ground, and a new fortress called Temenos, situated on a high 
and rugged hill, about twelve miles inland, was constructed 
and garrisoned by a body of Byzantine and Armenian troops*. 
Many Saracens, however, remained in the island, but they 
were reduced to a state approaching servitude. The greater 
part of the Greek population in some parts of the island had 
embraced Mohammedanism during the 135 years of Saracen 
domination. When the island was reconquered, an Armenian 
monk named Nikon became a missionary to these infidels, 
and he had the honour of converting numbers of the Cretans 
back to Christianity ^ As soon as the conquest of the island 
was completed, the greater part of the army was ordered to 

* Leo Diaconus, 11, e<3it. Bonn. The name Chandax was corrupted into 
Candia, and extended to the whole island, by the Venetians. [The name of 
Candia, however, was never used in Crete for the island, and at the present day it 
is never heard at all, the city of Candia being called Megalo-Castron, or more 
familiarly ' the Castron,* though a few persons of the upper class prefer to call it 
Heracleion, using the name of the ancient dty, which occupied the site and was 
the port of Cnossus. Ed.] 

* [Temenos is placed by Pashley (7Vaw/s in Crete, i. 232) on a steep height 
called Rhoka, to the south-west of the conspicuous Mount luktas, where was 
•the sepulchre of Zeus.* It became celebrated in the Venetian history of the 
island, as the place of refuge of the Duke of Candia, when Marco Sanudo, the 
Duke of Naxos, rebelled against Venice, and obtained possession of the principal 
cities of Crete. Ed.] 

> Baronius, Annal. Eceles, a.d. 961 ; F. Cornelius, Cnta Sacra, i. 206; ii. 340. 


by Google 

A.D. 945-963.] 

Asia Minor ; but Nicephorus was invited by the emperor v 
visit Constantinople, where he was allowed the honour of a 
triumph. He brought Kurup, the Saracen emir of Crete, a 
prisoner in his train ^ 

We may here pause to take a cursory view, of the state of 
Greece during the ninth and tenth centuries. The preceding 
pages have noticed the few facts concerning the fortunes of 
this once glorious land that are preserved in the Byzantine 
annals, but these facts are of themselves insufficient to explain 
how a people, whose language and literature occupied a pre- 
dominant position in society, enjoyed neither political power 
nor moral pre-eminence as a nation. The literary instruction 
of every child in the empire who received any intellectual 
culture was thoroughly Greek : its first prayers were uttered 
in that language ; its feelings were refined by the perusal of 
the choicest passages of the Greek poets and tragedians, and 
its intellect enlarged by the study of the Greek historians and 
philosophers; but here the influence ended, for the moral 
education of the citizen was purely Roman. The slightest 
glance into history proves that the educated classes in the 
Byzantine empire were generally destitute of all sympathy 
with Greece, and looked down on the Greeks as a provincial 
and alien race. The fathers of the church and the eccle- 
siastical historians, whose works were carefully studied, to 
complete the education of the Byzantine youth, and to 
prepare them for public life, quickly banished all Hellenic 
fancies as mere schoolboy dreams, and turned the attention to 
the atmosphere of practical existence in church and state. 
Byzantine society was a development of Roman civilization, 
and hence the Byzantine mind was practical and positive : 
administration and law were to it what liberty and philosophy 
had been to the Hellenes of old. The imagination and the 
taste of Hellas had something in their natural superiority that 
was repulsive to Byzantine pedantry, while the paganism of 
classic literature excited the contempt of ecclesiastical bigots. 
A strong mental difference was therefore the cause of the 

* Leo Diaconus, 28, 420, edit. Bonn; King, 314. There is a contemporary 
poem in five cantos (acroases) on the conquest of Crete, by Theodosius, a deacon, 
which gives a tolerably correct, though not a very poetical, picture of the war. 
It was published in the Creta Sacra of Cornelius, and is reprinted in the volume 
that contains Leo Diaconus in the Bonn edition of the Corpus Scriptorum Historia9 

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aversion to Greece and the Greeks that is apparent in 

Byzantine society, and its operation is equally visible in the 

Hellenic race. The spirit of local patriotism which has 

always been powerful among the Greeks kept them aloof from 

the Byzantine service, so that they really occupy a less 

prominent figure in the history of the empire than they were 

entitled to claim. 

The great social feature of the Hellenic race, during the 
ninth and tenth centuries, is its stationary condition. The 
eighth century was unquestionably a period of great activity, 
increase, and improvement among the European Greeks, as 
among every other portion of the population of the Eastern 
Empire. But after the subjection of the Sclavonian colonists 
in the first years of the ninth century, and the re-establish- 
ment of extensive commercial relations over the whole 
Mediterranean, Greek society again relapsed into a stationary 
condition. There is no doubt that the general aspect of the 
country had undei^one a total change; and its condition 
in the tenth century was very different from its condition 
in the seventh. Hellenic traditions were lost; the classic 
names of mountains, rivers and memorable sites were for- 
gotten : ancient cities disappeared and their names were 
buried in oblivion, and new cities with names unknown in 
ancient Greece arose ^ 

The legendary history of the Greek monasteries tells us 
that the country was once utterly deserted, that the rugged 
limestone mountains were overgrown with forests and thick 
brushwood, and that into these deserted spots holy hermits 
retired to avoid the presence of pagan Sclavonians, who occu- 
pied the rich plains and pastoral slopes of the lower hills. In 
these retreats the holy anchorites dreamed that they were 
dwelling in cells once occupied by saints of an earlier day — 
men who were supposed to have fled from imaginary per- 
secutions of Roman emperors, who had depopulated whole 
provinces by their hatred to Christianity, instead of by admi- 
nistrative oppression ; and the hermits saw visions revealing 
where these predecessors had concealed portraits painted by 
St. Luke himself, or miraculous pictures, the work of no 

* Of these, some were constructed on ancient sites, others replaced neigh- 
bouring ancient cities, like Monemvasia, Piada, Nikli, Veligosti, Andravida, ^and 

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AJ>. 945-963.] 

human hand. Such is perhaps a not unapt representation 
of a large part of the rural districts of Greece during the 
seventh century. The immense extent of the private estates 
of a few rich individuals, from the time of Augustus to that of 
Leo the Philosopher, left whole provinces depopulated, and fit 
only to be used as pasture. Fiscal oppression, privileged 
landlords, serfdom, robbery, piracy and slavery, all conspired 
to degrade and depopulate Greece before the Sclavonians 
colonized her 6oil. 

The vigorous administration of the Iconoclasts restored 
order, subdued the Sclavonians, and revived industry and 
commerce. The state of Greece was again changed, the 
Greek population increased as if it had consisted of new 
colonists settled on a virgin soil, and from the end of the 
ninth century to the invasion of the Crusaders, Greece was 
a rich and flourishing province. The material causes of this 
wealth are as evident as the moral causes of its political 
insignificance. The great part of the commerce of the Medi- 
terranean was in the hands of the Greeks ; the wealth of the 
Byzantine empire placed ample capital at their command ; 
the silk manufacture was to Thebes and Athens what the 
cotton manufacture now is to Manchester and Glasgow; 
Monemvasia was then what Venice became at a later period ; 
the slave-trade, though it filled the world with misery and 
Christian society with demoralization, brought wealth to the 
shores of Greece. The mass of the agricultural population, 
too, enjoyed as much prosperity as the commercial. The 
produce of the country was abundant, and labour bore a far 
higher price than has ever been the case in western Europe. 
This was a natural result of the state of things in the vicinity 
of every town and village in Greece. The nature of all the 
most valuable produce of the land rendered the demand for 
labour at particular seasons very great; and this labo ir 
yield^sL immense profits, for it fructified olive-groves, vine- 
yards, and orchards of the chdcest kinds, formed by the 
accumulated capital of ages. The labour of a few days 
created an amount of produce which bore no comparison 
with its cost, and Greece at this time possessed a monopoly 
of the finer kinds of oil, wine, and fruit. Moreover, the 
pastoral habits of the Sclavonians, who still occupied large 
provinces at a distance from the principal towns, prevented 

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the cultivation of corn over a great extent of country; and 
the ruin of the excellent roads, which in ancient times had 
admitted of the transport of huge blocks of marble, and the 
march of armies accompanied by elephants over the roughest 
mountains, rendered the transport of grain to any considerable 
distance impossible. All these circumstances rendered labour 
valuable. The cultivation of grain by spade husbandry was 
often a matter of necessity, so that the agricultural labourer 
could easily maintain a position of comparative ease and 

In this state of society, the only chance of improvement 
lay in the moral advancement of the citizen, which was only 
attainable by the union of free local institutions with a well- 
organized central administration, and a judicial system over 
which the highest political power could exert no influence. 
Unfortunately no central government on the continent of 
Europe, which has possessed strength sufficient to repress 
local selfishness and the undue power of privileged classes, 
has ever yet avoided fiscal oppression ; and this was the case 
in the Byzantine empire. The social condition of the Greeks 
nourished intense local selfishness ; the exigencies of the 
Byzantine government led to severe fiscal exactions. The 
result of the political and financial, as well as of the moral 
state of the country, was to produce a stationary condition of 
society. Taxation absorbed all the annual profits of industry; 
society offered no invitation to form new plantations, or extend 
existing manufactures, and the age afforded no openings for 
new enterprises ; each generation moved exactly in the limits 
of that which had preceded it, so that Greece, though in a 
state of material prosperity, was standing on the brink of 
decline. That decline commenced the moment the Italians 
were enabled to avail themselves of the natural resources of 
their country. Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, freed from 
the fiscal oppression of a central government, became first the 
rivals and then the superiors of the Greeks in commerce, 
industry, and wealth. 

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Period of Conquest and Military Glory. 
A.D. 963-10^^5. 

Sect. I. — Reigns of Nicephorus II. {Pkokas\ and John L 
{Zimiskes), A.D. 963-976. 

Administration of Joseph Bringas. — Character of Nicephorus II., 963 -969. — Public 
administration.— Saracen war. — Affairs in Sicily, Italy, and Bulgaria. — Assas- 
sination of Nicephorus II. — Character of John I.. 969-976. — Coronation. — 
Rebellions of the family of Nicephorus II. (Phokas), — Russian war. — Republic 
of Cherson. — Saracen war. — Death of John I. 

The Empress Theophano was left by Romanus II. regent 
for her sons, but as she was brought to bed of a daughter 
only two days before her husband's death, the whole direction 
of public business remained in the hands of Joseph Bringas, 
whose ability was universally acknowledged, but whose 
severity and suspicious character rendered him generally 
unpopular. His jealousy soon involved him in a contest 
for power with Nicephorus Phokas, who did not venture to 
visit Constantinople until his personal safety was guaranteed 
by the Empress Theophano and the Patriarch Polyeuktes. 
Nicephorus was allowed to celebrate his victories in Syria 
by a triumph, in which he displayed to a superstitious crowd 
the relics he had obtained by his victories over the Moham- 
medans; and the piety of the age attached as much 
importance to these as his troops did to the booty and 
slaves with which they were enriched ^ Bringas saw that 

1 Cedrenus, 646; Zonaras, ii. 198. 


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the popularity of Nicephorus and the powerful influence of 
his family connections must soon gain him the title of Em- 
peror, and his jealousy appears to have precipitated the event 
he feared. He formed a plot to have the victorious general 
seized, in order that his eyes might be put out. Nicephorus 
being informed of his danger, and having secured the support 
of the Patriarch by his devout conduct, persuaded Polyeuktes 
to take prompt measures to protect him from the designs of 
Bringas. The senate was convoked, and the Patriarch pro- 
posed that Nicephorus should be intrusted with the command 
of the army in Asia, according to the last will of Romanus 
II ^. Bringas did not venture to oppose this proposal of the 
Patriarch, which was eagerly adopted ; and Nicephorus, after 
taking an oath never to injure the children of Romanus, his 
lawful sovereigns, placed himself at the head of the Byzantine 
forces in Asia. 

Bringas still pursued his schemes; he wrote to John 
Zimiskes, the ablest and most popular of the generals under 
the orders of Nicephorus, offering him the supreme command 
if he would seize the general-in-chief, and send him to 
Constantinople as a prisoner. Zimiskes was the nephew 
of Nicephorus; but his subsequent conduct shows that 
conscience would not have arrested him in the execution of 
any project for his own aggrandizement. On the present 
occasion, he may have thought that the power of Bringas 
was not likely to be permanent, and he may have expected 
little gratitude for any service ; while the popularity of 
Nicephorus with the troops made fidelity to his general 
the soundest policy. Zimiskes carried the letter of the 
prime-minister to Nicephorus, and invited him to assume 
the imperial title, as the only means of securing his own 
life and protecting his friends. It is said that John Zimiskes 
and Romanus Kurkuas were compelled to draw their swords, 
and threaten to kill their uncle, before he would allow himself 
to be proclaimed emperor. The same thing had been said 
of Leo V. (the Armenian), who it was believed had been 
compelled to mount the throne by his murderer and suc- 
cessor, Michael II 2. Nicephorus yielded, and marched imme- 
diately from Caesarea to Chrysopolis, where he encamped. 

* Leo Diaconus, 34, edit. Bonn. 

* Leo Diaconus, 38,. edit. Bonn; Zonaras, ii. 198; iee above, p. 124. 

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AJ). 963-976.] 

Bringas found little support in the capital. Basilios, the 
natural son of the Emperor Romanus I., armed his house- 
hold, in which he had three thousand slaves, and exciting 
a sedition of the populace, sallied into the streets of 
Constantinople, and attacked the houses of the ministers, 
most of whom were compelled to seek an asylum in the 
churches ^ Nicephorus was invited to enter the capital, 
where he was crowned by the Patriarch Polyeuktes, in 
St. Sophia's, on the i6th of August 963 *. 

The family of Phokas was of Cappadocian origin, and had 
for three generations supplied the empire with distinguished 
generals^. Nicephorus proved an able emperor, and a 
faithful guardian of the young emperors; but his personal 
bearing was tinged with military severity, and his cold 
phl^rixiatic temper prevented his using the arts necessary 
to gain popularity either with the courtiers or the citizens. 
His conduct was moral, and he was sincerely religious ; but 
he was too enlightened to confound the pretensions of the 
church with the truth of Christianity, and, consequently, 
in spite of his real piety, he was calumniated by the clergy 
as a hypocrite*. Indeed, it would have been exceedingly 
difficult for a strict military disciplinarian, who succeeded a 
young and gay monarch like Romanus IL, to render himself 
popular on a throne, which he ascended at the mature age 
of fifty-one. 

^ Basilios was the son of a Sclavonian woman ; like many eminent men of his 
time, he was an eunuch. Leo Diaconus, 94. 

* Leo Diaconus, 48. 

* Luitprand. 347 ; Cedrenus, 737. 

* Nicephorus sent a hundred pounds* weight of gold from the spoils of Crete 
to found the monastery of the great Laura on Mount Athos, to which it was said 
he proposed to retire ; and St. Athanasios, a monk whom he charged with this 
commission, became afterwards indignant when Nicephorus put a crown on his 
head in place of shaving it. The fanatic thought that he should have preferred 
the idle life of a cell to the active duties of a palace. Leo Diaconus, edit. Bonn, 
«o/«, 436. St. Athanasios reorganized the monastic communities of Mount Athos 
between a.d. 959-969. Montfaucon, Palaeographia Graeca, 453-454. [St. Atha- 
nasius was ^ man of noble birth in Trebizond, and was educated at Constanti- 
nople; he subsequently devoted himself with great zeal to the monastic life. He 
had predicted to the Emperor Nicephorus that he would repulse the Saracens, 
and It was for this reason that that conmiander (it was before he came to the 
throne) sent him the money to assist in founding the monastery. See the passage 
from an unpublished MS., quoted by Hase in his notes to Leo Diaconus. vbi supra. 
One prominent feature in his reoi^anization of the monastic communities on Athos 
was the establishment of the office of • First Man.* a sort of president, intended 
to combine and regulate the scattered societies. Gass, De Claustris in Monte Atko 
utU, p. 9. Ed.] 

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The coronation of Nicephorus was soon followed by his 
marriage with Theophano, a match which must have been 
dictated to the beautiful widow by ambition and policy 
rather than love; though the Byzantine writers accuse her 
of a previous intrigue with the veteran general, and record 
that she exerted great authority over him, by her persuasive 
manners. The marriage ceremony was performed by the 
Patriarch, but shortly after its celebration he forbade the 
emperor to enter the chancel of St. Sophia's, where the 
imperial throne was placed, declaring that even the emperor 
must submit to the penance imposed by the orthodox church 
on second marriages, which excluded the contracting party 
from the body of the church for a year. The hostile feeling, 
on the part of Polyeuktes, that produced this act of authority 
encouraged a report that Nicephorus had acted as godfather 
to one of the children of Romanus and Theophano — a 
connection which, according to the Greek church, forms an 
impediment to marriage \ The Patriarch appears to have 
adopted this report without consideration, and threatened 
to declare the marriage he had celebrated null ; he had 
even the boldness to order the emperor to separate from 
Theophano immediately. But this difficulty was removed 
by the chaplain who had officiated at the baptism. He 
came forward, and declared on oath that Nicephorus had 
not been present, nor had he, the priest, ever said so. 
The Patriarch found himself compelled to withdraw his 
opposition, and, to cover his defeat, he allowed Nicephorus 
to enter the church without remark. This dispute left a 
feeling of irritation on the mind of the emperor, and was 
probably the cause of some of his severities to the clergy, 
while it certainly assisted in rendering him unpopular among 
his bigoted subjects. 

Nicephorus had devoted great attention to improving the 
discipline of the Byzantine army, and, as it consisted in 
great part of mercenaries, this could only be done by a 
liberal expenditure. His chief object was to obtain troops 
of the best quality, and all the measures of his civil 
administration were directed to fill the treasury. An efficient 
army was the chief support of the empire ; and it seemed, 

* Zonaras, note of Ducange, ii. 87. 

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A.D. 963-976.] 

therefore, to Nicephorus that the first duty of an emperor 
was to secure the means of maintaining a numerous and 
well-appointed military force. Perhaps the people of Con- 
stantinople would have applauded his maxims and his 
conduct, had he been more liberal in lavishing the wealth 
he extorted from the provinces on festivals and shows in 
the capital. A severe famine, at the commencement of his 
reign, increased his unpopularity. This scarcity commenced 
in the reign of Romanus II., and, among the reports cir- 
culated against Joseph Bringas, it was related that he had 
threatened to raise the price of wheat so high, that, for a 
piece of gold, a man should only purchase as much as he 
could carry away in his pockets. It is very probable that 
the measures adopted by Nicephorus tended to increase 
the evil, though Zonaras, in saying that he allowed each 
merchant to use his own interest as a law, would lead us 
to infer that he abolished monopolies and maximums, and 
left the trade in grain free\ The fiscal measures of his 
reign, however, increased the burden of taxation. He re- 
trenched the annual largesses of the court, and curtailed 
the pensions granted to courtiers. The worst act of his 
reign, and one for which the Byzantine historians have justly 
branded him with merited odium, was his violation of the 
public faith, and the honour of the Eastern Empire, by 
adulterating the coin, and issuing a debased coin, called 
the tetarteron. This debased money he employed to pay 
the debts of the state, while the taxes continued to be 
exacted in the older and purer coinage of the empire. It 
must always be borne in mind, that the legal standard of 
the mint in the Eastern Empire remained invariable until 
the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders. The gold 
coins of Leo III. and of Isaac II. are of the same weight 
and purity ; and the few emperors who disgraced their reigns 
by tampering with the currency have been branded with 
infamy. Perhaps there is no better proof of the high state 
of political civilization in Byzantine society^. But the 

' Zonaras, ii. 203-306 ; Cedrenus, 660. The price of a modius of wheat hav'ng 
risen to a nomisma (that is, a bushel for eleven shillings), the emperor sold it 
from the public granaries at half that price ; yet the people grumbled, because 
it was said Basil I. had. on some occasion, ordered wheat to be sold at the rate 
of twelve modii for a gold nomisma. 

' Zonaras, il. 303 ; Cedrenus, 658. 

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dissatisfaction against Nicephorus was ripened into personal 
animosity by an accidental tumult in the hippodrome, ia 
which many persons lost their lives. It happened that, 
while the troops were going through the evolutions of a 
sham-fight, a report arose that the emperor intended to 
punish the people, who had thrown stones at him, and in- 
sulted him as he passed through the streets. This caused a 
rush out of the enclosures, and many persons, men, women, 
and children, perished. The citizens, of course, insisted that 
the massacre was premeditated \ 

The whole reign of Nicephorus was disturbed by the ill-will 
of the clergy, and one of his wisest measures met with the 
most determined opposition. In order to render the military 
service more popular among his native subjects, and prevent 
the veterans from quitting the army under the influence of 
religious feelings distorted by superstition, he wished the 
clergy to declare that all Christians who perished in war 
against the Saracens were martyrs in the cause of religion. 
But the Patriarch, who was more of a churchman than a 
patriot, considered it greater gain to the clei^ to retain 
the power of granting absolutions, than to enlist a new 
army of martyrs in the service of the church; and he 
appealed to the canons of St. Basil to prove that all war 
was contrary to Christian discipline, and that a Christian 
who killed an enemy, even in war with the Infidels, ought 
to be excluded from participating in the holy sacrament 
for three years. With a priesthood supporting such religious - 
opinions, the Byzantine empire had need of an admirable 
system of administration, and a series of braye and warlike 
emperors, to perpetuate its long existence^. In the first 
year of his reign, Nicephorus endeavoured to restrain the 
passion for founding monasteries that then reigned almost 
universally. Many converted their family residences into 
monastic buildings, in order to die as monks, without changing 
their habits of life. The emperor prohibited the foundation 
of any new monasteries and hospitals, enacting that only 
those already in existence should be maintained ; and he 

* Leo Diaconus witnessed the insults Nicephoras bore, and admired his 
equanimity; but a woman was burnt for throwing a stone at him: p. 65; Zo- 
naras, ii. 203. 

« Zonaras, ii. 203 ; Cedrenus, 658. 

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declared all testamentary donations of landed property in 
favour of the church void\ He also excited the anger of 
the clergy, by forbidding any ecclesiastical election to be 
made until the candidate had received the imperial approba- 
tion. He was in the habit of leaving the wealthiest sees 
vacant and retaining their revenues, or, if the see was filled, 
of compelling the new bishop to pay a large portion of his 
receipts annually into the imperial treasury 2. 

Nicephorus was so well aware of his unpopularity, that he 
converted the great palace into a citadel, which he made 
capable of defence with a small garrison. As the army was 
devoted to him, he knew that beyond the walls of Constanti- 
nople he was in no danger. In estimating the character and 
conduct of Nicephorus H., we must not forget that his 
enemies have drawn his portrait, and that, unfortunately 
for his reputation, modern historians have generally attached 
more credit to the splenetic account of the Byzantine court 
by Luitprand, the bishop of Cremona, than it is entitled to 
receive. Luitprand visited Constantinople as ambassador 
from the German emperor, Otho the Great, to negotiate a 
marriage between young Otho and Theophano, the step- 
daughter of Nicephorus. Otho expected that the Byzantine 
emperor would cede his possessions in southern Italy as the 
dowry of the princess; Nicephorus expected the German 
emperor would yield up the suzerainty over Beneventum 
and Capua for the honour of the alliance. As might be 
expected, from the pride of both parties, the ambassador 
failed in. his mission; but he revenged himself by libelling 
Nicephorus ; and his picture of the arrogance and suspicious 
policy of the Byzantine court in its intercourse with foreigners 
gives his libel some value, and serves as an apology for his 
virulence ^ 

• The Novellae of Nicq>horus ; Leo Diaconus, 309, edit. Bonn. 

• Luitprand; Leo Diaconus, 371. 

• The value of the bishop's evidence as an a{fT6vTrj$ may be estimated from 
his saying that Bardas, the father of Nicephorus, appeared to be a hundred and 
fifty years old. Luitprand had visited Constantinople in 948, as ambassador of 
Bcrengcr. with a present of eunuchs, which Verdun then exported. He then saw 
the singing tree, the lions of metal that roared, and the eagle that flapped its 
wings. Luitprand, Hist, lib. vL cap. i ; Daru, Histoin dt V4ms§^ i. 93. The 
account of Luitprand's embassy to Nicephorus is in Muratori, Script, Rer. ItaJ, 
torn. ii. 479 ; and in the volume of the Byzantine Collection published at Bonn, 
which contains Leo Diaconus. 

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The darling object of Nicephorus was to break the power of 
the Saracens, and extend the frontiers of the empire in Syria 
and Mesopotamia. In the spring of 964, he assembled an 
army against Tarsus, which was the fortress that covered the 
Syrian frontier. The river Cydnus flowed through the city, 
dividing it into two portions, which were united by three 
bridges. The place was populous, well fortified, and amply 
supplied with every means of defence, so that the emperor 
was compelled to raise the siege, and lead his army against 
Adana, which he took. He then formed the siege of Mop- 
suestia, and, employing his men to run a subterraneous 
g^lery under the walls, he prevented the besieged from 
observing the operation by throwing the earth taken from 
the excavation into the Pyramus during the night. When his 
mine was completed, the beams which supported the walls 
were burned, and as soon as the rampart fell, the Byzantine 
army carried the place by storm. Next year (965), Nicephorus 
again formed the siege of Tarsus with an army of forty thou- 
sand men. The place was inadequately supplied with pro- 
visions ; and though the inhabitants were a warlike race, who 
had long carried on incursions into the Byzantine territory, 
they were compelled to abandon their native city, and retire 
into Syria, carrying with them only their personal clothing. 
A rich cross, which the Saracens had taken when they 
destroyed the Byzantine army under Stypiotes in the year 
877, was recovered, and placed in the church of St. Sophia at 
Constantinople. The bronze gates of Tarsus and Mopsuestia, 
which were of rich workmanship, were also removed, and 
placed by Nicephorus in the new citadel he had constructed to 
defend the palace^. In the same year Cyprus was recon- 
quered by an expedition under the command of the patrician 

For two years the emperor was occupied at Constantinople 
by the civil administration of the empire, by a threatened 
invasion of the Hungarians, and by disputes with the king of 
Bulgaria ; but in 968 he again resumed the command of the 
army in the East. Early in spring he marched past Antioch 
at the head of eighty thousand men, and, without stopping to 
besiege that city, he rendered himself master of the fortified 

^ Leo Diaconus, 61, edit. Bonn; Zonaras, ii. 201, 

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AJ). 963-976.] 

places in its neighbourhood, in order to cut it off from all relief 
from the caliph of Bagdad. He then pushed forward his con- 
quests ; Laodicea, Hierapolis, Aleppo, Area, and Emesa were 
taken, and Tripolis and Damascus paid tribute to save their 
territory from being laid waste. In this campaign many 
relics were surrendered by the Mohammedans^. In conse- 
quence of the approach of winter, the emperor led his army 
into winter-quarters, and deferred forming the siege of Antioch 
until the ensuing spring. He left the patrician Burtzes in a 
fort on the Black Mountain, with orders to watch the city, 
and prevent the inhabitants from collecting provisions and 
military stores. The remainder of the army, under the com- 
mand of Peter, was stationed in Cilicia ^. As he was anxious 
to reserve to himself the glory of restoring Antioch to the 
empire, he ordered his lieutenants not to attack the city during 
his absence. But a spy informed Burtzes that it was easy to 
approach one of the towers of which he had measured the 
height, and the temptation to take the place by surprise was 
not to be resisted. Accordingly, on a dark winter night, while 
there was a heavy fall of snow, Burtzes placed himself at the 
head of three hundred chosen men, and gained possession of two 
of the towers of Antioch ^ He immediately sent off a courier 
requesting Peter to advance and take possession of the city; 
but Peter, from fear of the emperof's jealousy, delayed moving 
to his assistance for three days. During this interval, how- 
ever, Burtzes defended himself against the repeated attacks of 

* The roost remarkable of these relics were an old garment and a blocdy tress 
of hair, said to have belonged to John the Baptist, and the tile with the miraculous 
portrait of our Saviour, which last was taken at Hierapolis. Cedrenus, 656; 
^naras, ii. 201. Thb tile was probably an ancient terra-cotta, with a head of 
Jupiter resembling the received type of the Saviour. The sword of Mahomet 
was also taken in this campaign, for the Mc^ammedans were as much votaries 
of relics in this age as the Christians. 

■ Peter was an eunuch; he distinguished himself in single combat with a 
Russian champion, whom he killed with his lance. Leo Diaconus, 109, edit. 

' The towers of Antioch present very much the appearance they did when they 
were attacked by Burtzes. * They are about thirty feet square, and project each 
way so as to defend the interior side, as well as the exterior face of the wall : the 
latter is from fifty to sixty feet high, and eight or ten feet broad at top, which 
is covered with cut stones terminated in a cornice. The towers have interior 
staircases, and three loop-holed stages resting on brick arches, the uppermost 
having a small platform ; and there is a small cistern beneath. Low doors afTotd 
a passage along the parapet, so that these structures may be regarded as a chain 
of small castles connected by a curtain, rather than as simple toweis.* Colonel 
Chesney, Tkt Expedition for the Survey 0/ the rivers Euphrates and Tigris^ voL i. 
p. 426. 

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the whole population, though with great difficulty. The 
Byzantine army at length arrived, and Antioch was annexed 
to the empire after having remained 328 years in the power 
of the Saracens. The Emperor Nicephorus, instead of re- 
warding Burtzes for his energy, dismissed both him and Peter 
from their commands ^ 

The Fatimite caliph Moez reigned at Cairowan, and was 
already contemplating the conquest of Egypt. Nicephorus 
not only refused to pay him the tribute of eleven thousand 
gold byzants, stipulated by Romanus I., but even sent an 
expedition to wrest Sicily from the Saracens. The chief 
command was intrusted to Niketas, who had conquered 
Cyprus ; and the army, consisting chiefly of cavalry, was more 
particularly placed under the orders of Manuel Phokas, the 
emperor*s cousin, a daring officer ^. The troops were landed 
on the eastern coast, and Manuel rashly advanced, until he 
was surrounded by the enemy and slain. Niketas also had 
made so little preparation to defend his position, that his 
camp was stormed, and he himself taken prisoner and sent to 
Africa. Nicephorus, who had a great esteem for Niketas in 
spite of this defeat, obtained his release by sending to Moez 

* [The condition of the eastern frontier of the Byzantine empire in the tenth 
century has received an interesting illustration of late by the publication of the 
Greek poem of Ai7^vi7« 'AKpira$ by MM. Sathas and Legrand. This poem is 
printed fiom an unique MS. existing at Tiebizond, and is the nearest approach 
to an epic that the Byzantines have produced. M. Legrand believes it to have 
been written in the tenth century, to which period the story certainly belongs, 
as the names of the emperors Romanus Lecapenus and Nicephorus Phocas occur 
in it. The hero, whose Christian name is Basil, is the son of a Saracenic emir 
of Syria, who storms a fortress belonging to a member of the family of the Ducas, 
and massacres the occupants with the exception of one daughter, whom he carries 
off. Shortly after, her brothers present themselves before the emir and demand 
her restitution, but are persuaded to allow him to marry her, when he has re- 
nounced Mohammedanism. Basil, the offspring of this union, is called Digenes, 
on account of the two antagonistic races which he represents, and Akritas, from 
the services which he subsequently rendered to the empire as defender of the 
mountain-passes {dxpai) on the frontier. He marries a daughter of another 
member of the Ducas family. The story is pervaded throughout by a chivalrous 
tone, and commemorates his heroic actions in combating wUd beasts and bands 
of outlaws, who are called Apelates, and are brigands of the usual type that infest 
the outlying districts of a weak kingdom. There is also an elaborate description 
of the palace and gardens which he made for himself on the banks of the 
Euphrates. M. Legrand shows that he was a historic personage, and identifies 
him with a general called Paiitherios, who commanded the forces of the East 
in the course of the tenth century (Introd. p. ci. foil.). The memory of Digenes 
has been perpetuated in a variety of ways in the East, and his name is familiar to 
readers of the modem Greek ballads, in which his struggle with Charon or Death 
is a favourite subject. £d.] 

' He was the son of Leo Phokas, the rival of Romanus I. 


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A4). 963-976.] 

the sword of Mahomet, which had fallen into his hands in 
Syria. Niketas consoled himself during his captivity by 
transcribing the works of St. Basil, and a MS. of his pen- 
manship still exists in the National Library at Paris ^ 

The affairs of Italy were, as usual, embroiled by local causes. 
Otho, the emperor of the West, entered Apulia at the head of 
an army, and having secured the assistance of Pandulf, prince 
of Beneventum, called Ironhead, carried on the war with 
frequent vicissitudes of fortune. Ironhead was taken prisoner 
by the Byzantine general, and sent captive to Constantinople. 
But the tyrannical conduct of the Byzantine officials lost all 
that was gained by the superior discipline of the troops, and 
favoured the progress of the German arms. The communities 
in southern Italy had fallen into such a state of isolation, 
that men were more eager to obtain immunity from all 
taxation than protection for industry and property, and the 
advantages of the Byzantine administration ceased to be 

The European provinces of the empire were threatened 
with invasion both by the Hungarians and Bulgarians. In 
966, Nicephorus was apprised of the intention of the Hun- 
garians, and he solicited the assistance of Peter, king of 
Bulgaria, to prevent their passing the Danube. Peter refused, 
for he had been compelled to conclude a treaty of peace with 
the Hungarians, who had invaded Bulgaria a short time 
before. It is even said that Peter took advantage of the 
difficulty in which Nicephorus was placed, by the numerous 
wars that occupied his troops, to demand payment of the 
tribute Romanus I. had promised to Simeon^. Nicephorus 
could not allow this ill-timed demand to pass unpunished : he 
sent Kalokyres, the son of the governor of Cherson, as ambas- 
sador to Russia, to invite Swiatoslaf, the Varangian prince of 
Kief, to invade Bulgaria, and intrusted him with a sum of 
fifteen hundred pounds' weight of gold, to pay the expenses 
of the expedition. Kalokyres proved a traitor : he formed 

* Leo Diaconus, 67. 76, edit. Bonn. Cedrenus seems to consider the conqueror 
of Cyprus and the prisoner of Sicily different persons ; but we can hardly suppose 
there were two eunuchs of the name of Niketas who were patricians, and held the 
oflSce of drungarios or admiral ; pp. 654, 655. The MS. is mentioned by Mont- 
fancon, Pal. Oraeca, 45 ; and by Hase, in his notes to Leo Diaconus. 443. 

' Leo Diaconus, 61, ^t. Bonn. 

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an alliance with Swiatoslaf, proclaimed himself emperor, and 

involved the empire in a bloody war with the Russians. 

Unpopular as Nicephorus II. was in the capital, his reig^n 
was unusually free from rebellions of the troops or insurrec- 
tions in the provinces. His life was terminated in his own 
palace by domestic treachery. His beautiful wife Theophano, 
and his valiant nephew John Zimiskes, were his murderers. 
Theophano was said to have been induced to take part in the 
conspiracy from love for Zimiskes, whom she expected to 
marry after he mounted the throne. Zimiskes murdered his 
friend and relation from motives of ambition \ A band of 
conspirators, selected from the personal enemies of the ena- 
peror, among whom was Burtzes, accompanied John Zimiskes 
at midnight to the palace wall overlooking the port of Buko- 
leon, and the female attendants of the empress hoisted them 
up from their boat in baskets. Other assassins had been 
concealed in the palace during the day, and all marched to 
the apartment of the emperor. Nicephorus was sleeping 
tranquilly on the floor — for he retained the habits of his mili- 
tary life amidst the luxury of the imperial palace. Zimiskes 
awoke him with a kick, and one of the conspirators gave him 
a desperate wound on the head, while Zimiskes insulted his 
uncle with words and blows : the others stabbed him in the 
most barbarous manner. The veteran, during his sufferings, 
only exclaimed, * O God I grant me thy mercy.' John I. was 
immediately proclaimed emperor by the murderers. The 
body of Nicephorus was thrown into the court, and left all 
day on the snow exposed to public view, that everybody 
might be convinced he was dead. In the evening it was 
privately interred. 

Thus perished Nicephorus Phokas on the loth December 
969 — a brave soldier, an able general, and, with all his defects, 
one of the most virtuous men and conscientious sovereigns 
that ever occupied the throne of Constantinople. Though 
born of one of the noblest and wealthiest families of the 
Eastern Empire, and sure of obtaining the highest ofiices 

^ A report was spread that Nicephorus intended to make eunuchs of Basil 
and Constantine. and declare his brother Leo his successor. Zonaras, iL 207. 
This was probably an invention of Theophano, but it met with little credit, 
and her crime was ascribed to her warmth of temperament and the coldness 
of her husband. There was a great fashion of filling monasteries with eimudu 
at this time. 

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yOHN /. (ZIMISKES). 335 

A.D. 963-976.] 

at a proud and luxurious court, he chose a life of hardship 
in pursuit of military glory; and a contemporary historian, 
who wrote after his family had been ruined by proscription, 
and his name had become odious, observes, that no one had 
ever seen him indulge in revelry or debauchery even in his 
youth ^. 

John I. was a daring warrior and an able general ^. He 
was thoughtless, generous, and addicted to the pleasures 
of the table, so that, though he was by no means a better 
emperor than Nicephorus, he was far more popular at 
Constantinople: hence we find that his base assassination 
of his sovereign and relative was easily pardoned and for- 
gotten, while the fiscal severity of his predecessor was never 
forgiven. The court of Constantinople was so utterly corrupt, 
that it was relieved from all sense of responsibility; the 
aristocracy knew no law but fear and private interest, and 
successful ambition rendered every crime venial. The throne 
was a stake for which all courtiers held it lawful to gamble, 
who had courage enough to risk their eyes and their lives to 
gain an empire. Yet we must observe that both Nicephorus 
and John were men of nobler minds than the nobles around 
them, for both respected the rights and persons of their wards 
and legitimate princes, Basil and Constantine, and contented 
themselves with the post of prime- minister and the rank of 

The chamberlain Basilios had been rewarded by Nice- 
phorus, for his services in aiding him to mount the throne, 
with the rank of President of the Council, a dignity created 
on purpose. He was now intrusted by John with the com- 
plete direction of the civil administration. The partisans 
of Nicephorus were removed from all offices of trust, and 
their places filled by men devoted to Zimiskes, or hostile 
to the family of Phokas. All political exiles were recalled, 
and a parade of placing the young emperors, Basil and 

* Leo Diacontis, 7?*, edit. Bonn. 

* The name Tzimiskes, an Armenian word, was given to John on account of 
his short stature. Leo DIaconus, 9a, 454; Le Beau, Histoire du Bas-Empirt, 
xiv. 100. The name is written in a fearful manner, and with variations not 
adapted to render it euphonious, by Avdall in his translation of Chamich. History 
of Armenia^ ii. 77, 01. He calls him Johannes Chimishkik in one passage, and 
in another. Chumuskik Keurjan. He was bom at Hierapolis, on the Euphrates, 
in the present pashalik of Amida or Diyar-bekr, called by Avdall Chumusnkazak, 
and by Saint-Martin, Tdiemeschgedzeg. Mhnoir$s sur tArminie, i. 95. 


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^^ [Bk.lI.Ch.IL$i. 

Constantine, on an equality with their senior colleague was 
made, as an insinuation that they had hitherto been retained 
in an unworthy state of inferiority. At the same time, 
measures were adopted to prevent the rabble of the capital 
from plundering the houses of the wealthy nobles who 
had been dismissed from their appointments, which was a 
usual proceeding at every great political revolution in 
Constantinople ^ 

The coronation of John I. was delayed by the Patriarch 
for a few days, for Polyeuktes lost no opportunity of showing 
his authority. He therefore refused to perform the ceremony 
until Zimiskes declared that he had not imbued his hands in 
the blood of his sovereign. The emperor pointed out his 
fellow-conspirators, Leo Valantes and Atzypotheodoros, as 
the murderers, and excused himself by throwing the whole 
blame of the murder on the Empress Theophano. The 
officers thus sacrificed were exiled, and the empress was 
removed from the imperial palace^. John was then admitted 
to the favour of the Patriarch, on consenting to abrogate the 
law of Nicephorus, providing that the candidates for ecclesias- 
tical dignities should receive the emperor's approbation before 
their election, and on promising to bestow all his private 
fortune in charity. After his coronation, he accordingly 
distributed one-half of his fortune among the poor peasants 
round Constantinople, and employed the other in founding 
an hospital for lepers, in consequence of that disease having 
greatly increased about this time. He also increased his 
popularity by remitting the tribute of the Armeniac 
theme, which was his native province, and by adding to 

* Cedrenus, 663. Gold coins, with the effigies of Nicephorus II. and Basil 11., 
attest that Basil preserved all the honours of his rank. Leo Diaconus, 94, edit 

• Theophano was sent to the island of Prote, but escaped, and sought asylum 
in St. Sophia's. The chamberlain Basilios took her thence by force, and she was 
exiled to a monastery in the Armeniac theme, founded by her murdered husband. 
Her indignation on hearing the sentence was so great, that she reviled Zimiskes, 
and boxed the ears of the <£amberlain, whom she called a barbarian and a Scythian. 
Leo Diaconus, 99 ; Cedrenus, 664. Gibbon is wrong in saying * she assaulted with 
words and blows her son Basil;' and Le Beau has committed the same error. 
Cedrenus says distinctly it was the celebrated eunuch she assaulted, and he was 
the son of a Scythian woman. There is not a word about her proclaiming the 
illegitimacy of the young Basil, nor indeed any reason to suppose he was present, 
from the accounts of Leo Diaconus, Cedrenus, and Zonaras. On the contrary, 
when Basil became the ruler of the empire, he recalled his mother from banish- 
ment. Cedrenus, 684. 

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AJ>. 963-976.] 

the largesses which it was customary for the emperor to 
distribute ^ 

The Patriarch Polyeuktes died about three months after 
the coronation, and Zimiskes selected Basilios, a monk of 
Mount Olympus, as his successor; and without paying any 
respect to the canons which forbid the interference of the 
laity in the election of bishops, he ordered him to be 
installed in his dignity. The monk proved less compliant 
than the emperor expected. After occupying the patriarchal 
chair about five years, he was deposed for refusing to appear 
before the emperor to answer an accusation of treason. The 
Patriarch declared the emperor incompetent to sit as his 
judge, asserting that he could only be judged or deposed 
by a synod or general council of the church. He was 
nevertheless banished to a monastery he had built on the 
Scamander, and from which he is called Scamandrinos. 
Antonios, the abbot of Studion, was appointed Patriarch in 
his place. 

The family of Phokas had so long occupied the highest 
military commands, and disposed of the patronage of the 
empire, that it possessed a party too powerful to be imme- 
diately reduced to submission. The reign of John was 
disturbed by more than one rebellion excited by its members. 
Leo, the brother of Nicephorus, had distinguished himself 
by gaining a great victory over the Saracens in the defiles 
of Kylindros, near Andrassos, while his brother was occupied 
with the conquest of Crete. During the reign of Nicephorus 
he held the office of curopalates, but had rendered himself 
hated on account of his rapacity. His second son, Bardas 
Phokas, held the office of governor of Koloneia and Chaldia 
when Nicephorus was murdered, and was banished to Amasia. 
Bardas was one of the best soldiers and boldest champions 
in the Byzantine army. In the year 970 he escaped from 
confinement, and rendered himself master of Caesarea, where 
he assumed the title of Emperor. In the mean time his 
father, escaping from Lesbos, and his elder brother Nice- 
phorus from Imbros, attempted to raise a rebellion in Europe. 
These two were soon captured, and John, satisfied that he had 
ruined the family when he murdered the Emperor Nicephorus, 

^ Leo Diaconus, 100. 

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spared their lives, and allowed the sentence which condemned 
them to lose their eyes to be executed in such a way that 
they retained their eyesight Bardas, however, gave the 
emperor some trouble, and it was necessary to recall Bardas 
Skleros from the Russian war to take the command against 
him^ Phokas, when deserted by his army, escaped to a 
castle he had fortified as a place of refuge, where he defended 
himself until Skleros persuaded him to surrender, on a pro- 
mise that he should receive no personal injury. Zimiskes, 
who admired his daring courage, condemned him to reside 
in the island of Chios, and adopt the monastic robe. His 
father Leo, who escaped a second time from confinement, 
and visited Constantinople in the hope of rendering himself 
master of the palace during ^the absence of the emperor, was 
discovered, and dragged from St. Sophia's, in which he sought 
an asylum. His eyes were then put out, and his immense 
estates confiscated. 

John, in order to connect himself with the Basilian dynasty, 
married Theodora, one of the daughters of Constantine VII. 
(Porphyrogenitus). Another more important marriage is passed 
unnoticed by the Byzantine writers. Zimiskes, finding that 
he could ill spare troops to defend the Byzantine possessions 
in Italy against the attacks of the Western emperor, released 
Pandulf of Beneventum, after he had remained three years a 
prisoner at Constantinople, and by his means opened ami- 
cable communications with Otho the Great. A treaty of 
marriage was concluded between young Otho and Theo- 
phano, the sister of the Emperors Basil and Constantine. 
The nuptials were celebrated at Rome on the 14th of April 
97ij ; and the talents and beauty of the Byzantine princess 
enabled her to act a prominent and noble part in the history 
of her time*. 

A curious event in the history of the Eastern Empire, 
which ought not to pass unnoticed, is the transportation of 
a number of heretics, called by historians Manichaeans, from 

* The family of Skleros is mentioned in the reign of Nicephoms I. Audorh 
incerti Historia, 429. 

* Muratori, Annali ^Italia, v. 435. [This marriage exercised a great inflaenoe 
on early German art, by introducmg the Byzantine style of painting mto Germany. 
This is very apparent in some illuminated MSS., which are preserved in the Royil 
Library at Munich. One of these is described in Kugler's Handbook q^ Painimg; 
German and Dutch Schools, p, 1 1. £d.] 

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AJ). 963-976.] 

the eastern provinces of Asia Minor, to increase the colonies 

of Paulicians and other heretics already established round 

Philippopolis. This is said to have been done by the 

Emperor John by advice of a hermit named Theodoros, 

whom he elevated to the dignity of Patriarch of Antioch. 

The continual mention of numerous communities of heretics 

in Byzantine history proves that there is no greater delusion 

than to speak of the unity of the Christian church. Dissent 

appears to have been quite as prevalent, both in the Eastern 

and Western churches, before the time of Luther, as it has 

been since. Because the Greeks and Italians have been 

deficient in religious feeling, and their superior knowledge 

enabled them to affect contempt for other races, the history 

of dissent has been neglected, and religious investigation 

decried under the appellation of heresy ^ 

The Russian war was the g^eat event of the reign of John 
Zimiskes. The military fame of the Byzantine emperor, who 
was unquestionably the ablest general of his time, the great- 
ness of the Russian nation, whose power now overshadows 
Europe, the scene of the contest, destined in our day to be 
again the battle-field of Russian armies, and the political 
interest which attaches to the first attempt of a Russian 
prince to march by land to Constantinople, all combine to 
give a practical as well as a romantic interest to this war ^. 

The first Russian naval expedition against Constantinople 
in 865 would probably have been followed by a series of 
plundering excursions, like those carried on by the Danes 
and Normans on the coasts of England and France, had not 
the Turkish tribe called the Patzinaks rendered themselves 

* Cedrenus, 665. It cannot be surprising that dissent was prevalent when we 
read how the clei]gy behaved. The Pope or anti-pope, called Boniface VII., 
assassinated Benedict VI., and, after despoiling the Vatican, fled to Constanti- 
nople, A.D. 974. In 984 he returned to Rome, dethroned the reigning Pope, 
Joon XIV., who perished in prison, and occupied the papal throne himself. He 
died in the following year. 

• Gibbon (voL vii. p. 80, edit. Smith) observes the singular undeclinable Greek 
word used to designate the Russians, *?«!, but does not mention that it occurs 
twice in the Septuagint, Ezek. xxxviii. 3, 3; xxxix. i. Our translation makes no 
mention of the Ros or Russians, or the last verse would read thus : * Therefore, 
thou son of man, prophesy against Goj^, and sav, thus saith the Lord God, Behold 
I am against thee, O Gog, chief pnnce of tne Russians, Meshech. and Tubal.* 
The Russians appear also to be mentioned twice in the Koran. Sale's Koran, 
chap. 2$ (the Rass on which Sale has a note is supposed to mean the Russians), 
and chap. 50. Sec Hammer, Sw Us Origines Russes, [See the article * Rosh * in 
Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, which supports the explanation here given of these 
passages, and quotes Gesenios to that effect. £0.] 

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masters of the lower course of the Dnieper, and become 
instruments in the hands of the emperors to arrest the 
activity of the bold Varangians \ The rulers of Kief were 
the same rude warriors that infested England and France, 
but the Russian people was then in a more advanced state of 
society than the mass of the population in Britain and Gaul. 
The majority of the Russians were freemen ; the majority of 
the inhabitants of Britain and Gaul were serfs. The com- 
merce of the Russians was already so extensive as to influence 
the conduct of their government, and to modify the military 
ardour of their Varangian masters. But this commerce, after 
the fall of the Khazar empire and the invasion of Europe by the 
Magyars and Patzinaks, was carried on under obstacles which 
tended to reduce its extent and diminish its profits, and 
which it required no common degree of skill and perseverance 
to overcome. The wealth revealed to the rapacious Varan- 
gian chiefs of Kief by the existence of this trade invited thera 
to attack Constantinople, which appeared to be the centre of 
immeasurable riches. 

After the defeat in 865, the Russians induced their rulers 
to send envoys to Constantinople to renew commercial 
intercourse, and invite Christian missionaries to visit their 
country. No inconsiderable portion of the people embraced 
Christianity, though the Christian religion continued long 
after better known to the Russian merchants than to the 
Varangian warriors^. The commercial relations of the 
Russians with Cherson and Constantinople were now carried 
on directly, and numbers of Russian traders took up their 
residence in these cities. The first commercial treaty between 
the Russians of Kief and the Byzantine empire was concluded 
in the reign of Basil I ^. The intercourse increased from that 
time. In the year 902, seven hundred Russians are mentioned 
as serving on board the Byzantine fleet with high pay; in 
935, seven Russian vessels, with 415 men, formed part of a 
Byzantine expedition to Italy; and in 949, six Russian 
vessels, with 629 men, were engaged in the unsuccessful 

* i5<«above, p. 188. 

• Con tin. 12a ; Cedrenus, 551 ; Photii Epistolae, 58; Wilken, t/ber dii Vtrhalt' 
nisse der Russen zum Byzantinischen Reich^ 90; Karamsin, Jlisfocre d€ la Rusae^ 
i. 148. 

» Zonaras, ii. 173. 

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AJ>. 963-976.] 

expedition of Gongyles against Crete \ In 966, a corps of 
Russians accompanied the unfortunate expedition of Niketas 
to Sicily \ There can be no doubt that these were all Varan- 
gians, familiar, like the Danes and Normans in the West, 
with the dangers of the sea, and not native Russians, whose 
services on board the fleet could have been of little value to 
the masters of Greece. 

But to return to the history of the Byzantine wars with 
the Russians. In the year 907, Oleg, who was regent of 
Kief during the minority of Igor the son of Rurik, assembled 
an army of Varangians, Sclavonians, and Croatians, and, 
collecting two thousand vessels or boats of the kind then used 
on the northern shore of the Euxine, advanced to attack 
Constantinople. The exploits of this army, which pretended 
to aspire at the conquest of Tzaragrad, or the City of the 
Caesars, were confined to plundering the country round 
Constantinople ; and it is not improbable that the expedition 
was undertaken to obtain indemnity for some commercial 
losses sustained by imperial negligence, monopoly, or 
oppression. The subjects of the emperor were murdered, 
and the Russians amused themselves with torturing their 
captives in the most barbarous manner. At length Leo 
purchased their retreat by the payment of a large sum of 
money. Such is the account transmitted to us by the 
Russian monk Nestor, for no Byzantine writer notices the 
expedition, which was doubtless nothing more than a plunder- 
ing incursion, in which the city of Constantinople was not 
exposed to any danger ®. These hostilities were terminated 
by a commercial treaty in 9iij, and its conditions are recorded 
in detail by Nestor *. 

In the year 941, Igor made an attack on Constantinople, 
impelled either by the spirit of adventure, which was the 
charm of existence among all the tribes of Northmen, or 
else roused to revenge by some violation of the treaty of 
912. The Russian flotilla, consisting of innumerable small 

* Constant. Porphyr. Dt Caeremoniis Aulae Byz. i. 653, 660, 664, edit. Bonn. 

* The Arabian nistorian Novairi, quoted by Karamsin. 

* The Russians are said on this occasion to have transported their fleet over 
some neck of land, in imitation of the exploit of Niketas Oryplias at the isthmus 
of Corinth, but it cannot have been near Constantinople. La Chronigu* de Nestor, 
traduiie en Francois par Louis Paris, i. 36. 

* Nestor, L 39 ; Krug, 108. 

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^ • [Bk.n.Ch.II.$i. 

vessels, made its appearance in tlie Bosphorus while the 
Byzantine fleet was absent in the Archipelago \ Igor landed 
at different places on the coast of Thrace and Bithynia, 
ravaging and plundering the country; the inhabitants were 
treated with incredible cruelty; some were crucified, others 
were burned alive, the Greek priests were killed by driving 
nails into their heads, and the churches were destroyed. 
Only fifteen ships remained -at Constantinople, but these 
were soon fitted up with additional tubes for shooting Greek 
fire. This force, trifling as it was in number, gave the Byzan- 
tines an immediate superiority at sea, and the patrician Theo- 
phanes sailed out of the port to attack the Russians. Igor, 
seeing the small number of the enemy's ships, surrounded 
them on all sides, and endeavoured to carry them by board- 
ing ; but the Greek fire became only so much more available 
against boats and men crowded together, and the attack was 
repulsed with fearful loss. In the mean time, some of the 
Russians who landed in Bithynia were defeated by Bardas 
Phokas and John Kurkuas, and those who escaped from the 
naval defeat were pursued and slaughtered without mercy 
on the coast of Thrace. The Emperor Romanus ordered all 
the prisoners brought to Constantinople to be beheaded. 
Theophanes overtook the fugitive ships in the month of 
September, and the relics of the expedition were destroyed, 
Igor effecting his escape with only a few boats *. The Rus- 
sian Chronicle of Nestor says that, in the year 944, Igor, 
assisted by other Varangians, and by the Patzinaks, prepared 
a second expedition, but that the inhabitants of Cherson so 
alarmed the Emperor Romanus by their reports of its mag- 
nitude, that he sent ambassadors, who met Igor at the mouth 
of the Danube, and sued for peace on terms to which Igor 
and his boyards consented. This is probably merely a salve 
applied to the vanity of the people of Kief by their chronicler; 
but it is certain that a treaty of peace was concluded between 
the emperors of Constantinople and the princes of Kief in 
the year 945 ^ The stipulations of this treaty prove the 

' The Byzantine writers and Nestor speak of ten thousand boats, but Luitpnnd, 
whose stepfather was then at Constantinople as ambassador from Hugh, king 
of Italy, says only that there were more than a thousand. Luitprandi HisL v. 6. 

* Contin. 363; Leo Gramm. 506; Symeon Mag. 490; Nestor, i. 54; Kmg, 

• The French translation of Nestor gives 945 as the date of the treaty, but 

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importance attached to the commerce carried on by the 
Russians with Cherson and Constantinople. The two Russo- 
Byzantine treaties preserved by Nestor are documents of 
great importance in tracing the history of civilization in the 
east of Europe. The attention paid to the commercial in- 
terests of the Russian traders visiting Cherson and Constan- 
tinople, and the prominence given to questions of practical 
utility instead of to points of dynastic ambition, may serve 
as a contrast to many modem treaties in the west of Europe^ 
The trading classes would not have been powerful enough 
to command this attention to their interests on the part of 
the warlike Varangians, had a numerous body of free citizens 
not been closely connected with the commercial prosperity 
of Russia. Unfortunately for the people, the municipal in- 
dependence of their cities, which had enabled each separate 
community to acquire wealth and civilization, was not joined 
to any central institutions that insured order and a strict 
administration of justice, consequently each city fell separately 
a prey to the superior military force of the comparatively 
barbarian Varangians of Scandinavia. The Varangian con- 
quest of Russia had very much the same effect as the Danish 
and Norman conquests in the West. Politically, the nation 
appeared more powerful, but the condition of all ranks of the 
people socially was much deteriorated. It was, however, 
the Tartar invasion which separates the modem and the 
mediaeval history of Russia, and plunged the country into 
the state of barbarism and slavery from which Peter the 
Great first raised it. 

The cmelty of the Varangian prince Igor, after his return 
to Russia, caused him to be murdered by his rebellious 
subjects^. Olga, his widow, became regent for their son 

Romanus, Constantine, and Stephen are the emperors named in the text Ro- 
manus L was deposed in December 944 ; Constantine and Stephen, his sons, on 
the 37th January 945; and Romanus II., son of Constantine VII. (Porphyro- 
genitus), was crowned as his father's colleague on the 6th April 945. Krug (a 10) 
considers the treaty as concluded by Constantine VII. and Romanus 11.. and 
it must have been ratified in the interval before Igor's death, which happened 
before the end of 945. 

* Commerce, as a means of increasing power and population, was beginning . 
to excite the attention of the barbarians in western Europe. Athelstan, 925-941, 
enacted a law to confer the privileges of a thane on any English merchant who 
had made three voyages to a foreign country on his own account. Wilkins, Ltgn 
Anglo^axonieas, 71. 

* Leo Diaconus (106, edit. Bonn) calls his murderers Germans, meaning doubt- 
less Northmen. 

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Swiatoslaf. She embraced the Christian religion, and visited 
Constantinople in 957, where she was baptized. The Em- 
peror Constantine Porphyrogenitus has left us an account 
of the ceremony of her reception at the Byzantine court ^. 
A Russian monk has preserved the commercial treaties of 
the empire ; a Byzantine emperor records the pageantry that 
amused a Russian princess. The high position occupied by 
the court of Kief in the tenth century is attested by the style 
with which it was addressed by the court of Constantinople. 
The golden bulls of the Roman emperor of the East, ad- 
dressed to the prince of Russia, were ornamented with a 
pendent seal equal in size to a double solidus, like those 
addressed to the kings of France^. 

We have seen that the Emperor Nicephorus II. sent the 
patrician Kalokyres to excite Swiatoslaf to invade Bulgaria, 
and that the Byzantine ambassador proved a traitor and 
assumed the purpled Swiatoslaf invaded Bulgaria at the 
head of a powerful army, which the gold brought by Kalo- 
kyres assisted him to equip, and defeated the Bulgarian army 
in a great battle, A.D. 968. Peter, king of Bulgaria, died 
shortly after, and the country was involved in civil broils; 
taking advantage of the confusion that ensued, Swiatoslaf 
took Presthlava the capital, and rendered himself master of 
the whole kingdom. Nicephorus formed an alliance with 
the Bulgarians, and was preparing to defend them against 
the Russians, when Swiatoslaf was compelled to return home, 
in order to defend his capital against the Patzinaks. Nice- 
phorus assisted Boris and Romanus, the sons of Peter, to 
recover Bulgaria, and concluded an offensive and defensive 
alliance with Boris, who occupied the throne. After the 
assassination of Nicephorus, Swiatoslaf returned to Bulgaria 
with an army of 60,000 men, and his enterprise assumed the 
character of one of those great invasions which had torn 
whole provinces from the Western Empire. His army was 
increased by a treaty with the Patzinaks and an alliance with 
the Hungarians, so that he b^an to dream of the conquest 
of Constantinople, and hoped to transfer the empire of the 

* Cedrenus, 636 ; Const. Porphyr. De Caer, Atd. Byz, i. 594, edit. Bonn ; King, 

* Const. Porphyr. De Caer, Aid, Byz, i. 690 ; Krug, 280. 

* ^«» P- 333- 

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East from the Romans of Byzantium to the Russians. It 
was fortunate for the Byzantine empire that it was ruled by 
a soldier who knew how to profit by the superior discipline 
and tactics of his army. The Russian wsis not ignorant of 
strat^^, and after completing the conquest of Bulgaria and 
securing his flank by his alliance with the Hungarians, he 
entered Thrace by the western passes of Mount Haemus, 
then the most frequented road between Germany and Con- 
stantinople, and that by which the Hungarians were in the 
habit of making their plundering incursions into the empire. 

John Zimisk^ was occupied in the East when Swiatoslaf 
completed the conquest of Bulgaria and passed Mount Haemus, 
expecting to subdue Thrace during the emperor's absence 
with equal ease, A.D. 970. The empire was still suffering 
from famine ^. Swiatoslaf took Philippopolis, and murdered 
twenty thousand of the inhabitants. An embassy sent by 
Zimiskes was dismissed with a demand of tribute, and the 
Russian army advanced to Arcadiopolis, where one division 
was defeated by Bardas Skleros, and the remainder retired 
again behind Mount Haemus \ 

In the following spring, 971, the Emperor John took the 
field at the head of an army of fifteen thousand infantry 
and thirteen thousand cavalry, besides a body-guard of 
chosen troops called the Immortals, and a powerful battery 
of field and si^e engines ^. A fleet of three hundred galleys, 
attended by many smaller vessels, was despatched to enter 
the Danube and cut off the communications of the Russians 
with their own country *. 

Military operations for the defence and attack of Constanti- 
nople are dependent on some marked physical features of the 
country between the Danube and Mount Haemus. The 
Danube, with its broad and rapid stream, and line of fortresses 
on its southern bank, would be an impregnable barrier to a 

^ Leo Diaconus, 103, edit. Bonn. 

' Leo Diaconus, 105 ; see a note at p. 473, by Hase, on the chronology of this 
period. I follow that generally received on the authority of Nestor. 

• The numbers are given by Leo Diaconus, 130. Cedrenus (67a) gives five 
thousand infantry and four thousand cavalry; 2k)naras (ii. an) the same number. 
The proportion affords some insight into the constitution of Byzantine armies at 
this penod of military glory, llie cavalry served as the model for European 
chivalry, but the sword of the legionary could still gain a battle. 

* Leo Diaconus (139) calls the larger vessels triremes, though they certainly 
had not more than two tiers of oars. Of the smaller he says, <rwdfM \ififioi$ uai 
dxarloii, & pw ToX/a* teal /wvipia icoivSn 6vofia(ovat, 

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[Bk.n.Cli.11. §t. 

military power possessing an active ally in Hungary and 
Servia ; for it is easy to descend the river and concentrate 
the largest force on any desired point of attack, to cut oflF 
the communications or disturb the flanks of the invaders. 
Even after the line of the Danube is lost, that of Mount 
Haemus covers Thrace; and it formed a rampart to Con- 
stantinople in many periods of danger under the Byzantine 
emperors. It wsis then traversed by three great military 
roads passable for chariots. The first, which has a double 
gorge, led from Philippopolis to Sardica by the pass called 
the Gates of Trajan (now Kapou Dervencl), throwing out 
three branches from the principal trunk to Naissos (Nisch) 
and Belgrade ^ This road also affords an easy line of 
communication between the Danube at Belgrade and the 
Mediterranean at Thessalonica, by ascending the upper course 
of the Morava to Skupi, and descending the course of the 
Vardar^. Two secondary passes communicate with this road 
to the north-east, affording passage for an army— that of 
Kezanlik, and that of Isladi ; and these form the shortest 
lines of communication between Philippopolis and the 
Danube about Nicopolis, through Bulgaria. The second 
gfreat pass is towards the centre of the range of Haemus, 
and has preserved among the Turks its Byzantine name 
of the Iron Gate^. It is situated on the direct line of 
communication between Adrianople and Roustchouk, Through 
this pass a good road might easily be constructed. The third 
great pass \s that to the east, forming the line of communica- 
tion between Adrianople and the Lower Danube near Silistria 
(Dorystolon). It is called by the Turks Nadir Dervend. 
The range of Haemus has several other passes independent 

* Amm. Marcel, xxi. lo; Soromen, Hku EecUs, ii. aa; Nicephorus Gregoias, i. 
331. Sardica is Triaditza, near Sophia. 

' Reise von Belgrad nach Salonik, von J. G. von Hahn. Wien, 1861. 4to. Consal 
von Hahn performed the whole journey in a carriage. [The object of Von Hahn's 
journey was to discover whether tlie country was practicable for a line of railway, 
and he reported unhesitatingly in its favour. He rode part of the way, and at one 
point * die Wagen wurden mehr getragen als gezogen/ but with the exception of 
some defiles the difficulties did not appear to l^ great. The Morava rises in the 
plain of Kossova, the scene of the great defeat of the Servians by the Turks in 
1389, and from the same plain flows a tributary of the Vardar (Axius), which joins 
that river near Skopia (Skupi). In a subsequent work, Reist durch die OebUte dtt 
Drin und Wardar (Wien, 1867), he supplements his former book by giving an 
account of the lower course of the latter river, which he did not visit on his 
previous journey. A railway now runs from Salonica to Skopia. £d.] 

* Cedrenus, 784, M t^$ \tyoftiyrj$ :Bi9ripa$. The Turks call it Dcmir kapoo. 

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Aj). 963-976.] 

of these, and its parallel ridges present numerous defiles. 

The celebrated Turkish position at Shoumla is adapted to 

cover several of these passes, converging on the great eastern 

road to Adrianople. 

The Emperor John marched from Adrianople just before 
Easter, when it was not expected that a Byzantine emperor 
would take the field. He knew that the passes on the great 
eastern road had been left unguarded by the Russians, and 
he led his army through all the defiles without encountering 
any difficulty. The Russian troops stationed at Presthlava, 
who ought to have guarded the passes, marched out to meet 
the emperor when they heard he had entered Bulgaria. 
Their whole army consisted of infantry; but the soldiers were 
covered with chain armour, and accustomed to resist the light 
cavalry of the Patzinaks and other Turkish tribes ^. They 
proved no match for the heavy-armed lancers of the imperial 
army; and, after a vigorous resistance, were completely 
routed by John Zimiskes^ leaving eight thousand five hundred 
men on the field of battle. On the following day Presthlava 
was taken by escalade, and a body of seven thousand Rus- 
sians and Bulgarians, who attempted to defend the royal 
palace, which was fortified as a citadel, were put to the sword 
after a gallant defence. Sphengelos, who commanded this 
division of the Russian force, and the traitor Kalokyres, 
succeeded in escaping to Dorystolon, where Swiatoslaf con- 
centrated the rest of the army; but Boris, king of Bul- 
garia, with all his family, was taken prisoner in his 

The emperor, after celebrating Easter in Presthlava, ad- 
vanced by Pliscova and Dinea to Dorystolon, where Swiatoslaf 
still hoped for victory, though his position was becoming 
daily more dangerous. The Byzantine fleet entered the 
Danube and took up its station opposite the city, cutting 
off the communications of the Russians by water, at the 
same time that the emperor encamped before the walls and 
blockaded them by land. Zimiskes, knowing he had to 
deal with a desperate enemy, fortified his camp with a 
ditch and rampart according to the old Roman model. 

* The Russians then wore armour simUar to that worn by the Normans in 
western Europe at a later period. Leo Diaconus, 108, 144, edit. Bonn. 

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which was traditionally preserved by the Byzantine engineers. 
The Russians enclosed within the walls of Dorystolon were 
more numerous than their besiegers, and Swiatoslaf endea- 
voured to open communications with the surrounding country, 
by bringing on a general engagement in the plain before all 
the defences of the enemy's camp were completed. He 
expected to defeat the attacks of the Byzantine cavalry 
by forming his men in squares, and, as the Russian soldiers 
were covered by long shields that reached to their feet, he 
expected to be able, by advancing his squares like moving 
towers, to clear the plain of the enemy. But while the 
Byzantine legions met the Russians in front, the heavy-armed 
cavalry assailed them with their long spears in flank, and the 
archers and slingers under cover watched coolly to transfix 
every man where an opening allowed their missiles to pene- 
trate. The battle nevertheless lasted all day, but in the 
evening the Russians were compelled, in spite of their 
desperate valour, to retire into Dorystolon without having 
effected anything. The infantry of the north now b^^n to 
feel its inferiority to the veteran cavalry of Asia sheathed in 
plate armour, and disciplined by long campaigns against 
the Saracens. Swiatoslaf, however, continued to defend 
himself by a series of battles rather than sorties, in which 
he made desperate efforts to break through the ranks of 
the besiegers in vain, until at length it became evident that 
he must either conclude peace, die on the field of battle, 
or be starved to death in Dorystolon. Before resigning 
himself to his fate, he made a last effort to cut his way 
through the Byzantine army; and on this occasion the 
Russians fought with such desperation, that contemporaries 
ascribed the victory of the Byzantine troops, not to the 
superior tactics of the emperor, nor to the discipline of 
a veteran army, but to the personal assistance of St. 
Theodore, who found it necessary to lead the charge of 
the Roman lancers, and shiver a spear with the Russians 
himself, before their phalanx could be broken. The victory 
was complete, and Swiatoslaf sent ambassadors to the emperor 
to sue for peace. 

The siege of Dorystolon had now lasted more than two 
months, and the Russian army, though reouced by repeated 
losses, still amounted to twenty-two thousand men. The 

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valour and contempt of death which the Varangians had 
displayed in the contest, convinced the emperor that it 
would cause the loss of many brave veterans to insist on 
their laying down their arms; he was therefore willing 
to come to terms, and peace was concluded on condition 
that Swiatoslaf should yield up Dorystolon, with all the 
plunder, slaves, and prisoners in possession of the Russians, 
engage to swear perpetual amity with the empire, and 
promise never to invade either the territory of Cherson or 
the kingdom of Bulgaria; while, on the other hand, the 
Emperor John engaged to allow the Russians to descend 
the Danube in their boats, to supply them with two medimni 
of wheat for each surviving soldier, to enable them to return 
home without dispersing to plunder for their subsistence, and 
to renew the old commercial treaties between Kief and Con- 
stantinople * ; July 971. 

After the treaty was concluded, Swiatoslaf desired to have 
a personal interview with his conqueror. John rode down 
to the bank of the Danube clad in splendid armour, and 
accompanied by a brilliant suite of guards on horseback. 
The short figure of the emperor was seen to no disadvantage 
on horseback. He was distinguished by the beauty of his 
charger and the splendour of his arms, while his fair counten- 
ance, light hair, and piercing blue eyes fixed the attention of 
all on his bold and good-humoured face, which contrasted 
well with the dark and sombre visages of his attendants. 
Swiatoslaf arrived by water in a boat, which he steered 
himself with an oar. His dress was white, differing in no 
way from that of those under him, except in being cleaner. 
Sitting in the stern of his boat, he conversed for a short 
time with the emperor, who remained on horseback close 
to the beach. The appearance of the bold Varangian excited 
much curiosity, and is thus described by a historian who 
was intimate with many of those who were present at the 
interview: — ^The Russian was of the middle stature, well 
formed, with strong neck and broad chest. His eyes were 
blue, his eyebrows thick, his nose flat, and his beard shaved, 
but his upper lip was shaded with long and thick mustaches. 

* Leo Diaconus, 155, edit. Bonn. I presume the medimnus means here the 
common Byzantme measure, which was nearly a bushel, without any reference to 
Attic measures. A part of the treaty is given, with the date, by Nestor, i. loa 


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The hair of his head was cropped close, except two long 

locks which hung down on each side of his face, and 

were thus worn as a mark of his Scandinavian race. In 

his ears he wore golden earrings ornamented with a ruby 

between two pearls, and his expression was stem and 

fierce ^. 

Swiatoslaf immediately quitted Dorystolon, but he was 
obliged to winter on the shores of the Euxine, and famine 
thinned his ranks. In spring he attempted to force his way 
through the territory of the Patzinaks with his diminished 
army. He was defeated, and perished near the cataracts 
of the Dnieper. Kour, prince of the Patzinaks, became 
the possessor of his skull, which he shaped into a drinking- 
cup, and adorned with the moral maxim, doubtless not less 
suitable to his own skull, had it fallen into the hands of 
others, ' He who covets the property of others, oft loses his 
own.* We have already had occasion to record that the 
skull of the Byzantine emperor, Nicephorus I., had orna- 
mented the festivals of a Bulgarian king; that of a 
Russian sovereign now figured in the tents of a Turkish 

The results of the campaign were as advantageous to the 
Byzantine empire as they were glorious to the Emperor John. 
Bulgaria was conquered, and a strong garrison established in 
Dorystolon, but Boris was still titular king of Bulgaria. He 
was now compelled to resign his crown, accept the title of 
magister, and reside at Constantinople as a pensioner of the 
Byzantine government The frontier of the eastern empire 
was thus once more extended to the Danube *. The peace 
with the Russians was uninterrupted until about the year 
988, when, from some unknown cause of quarrel, Vladimir 
the son of Swiatoslaf attacked and gained possession of 
Cherson by cutting off the water. 

The Greek city of Cherson, situated on the extreme verge 
of ancient civilization, escaped for ages from the impoverish- 
ment and demoralization into which the Hellenic race was 
precipitated by the Roman system of concentrating all power 
in the capital of the empire ^ Cherson was governed for 

* Leo Diaconus, 156. ■ Cedrenus, 694, 

* Cherson replaced the ancient Chersonesos, and Sebastopol now stands near its 
ruins. Chersonesos was recognised as a free city by Augustus. Pliny {fiiu. JVol, 

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AJ>. 963-976.] 

centuries by its own elective magistrates, and it was not until 
towards the middle of the ninth century that the Emperor 
Theophilus destroyed its independence. The people, how- 
ever, still retained in their own hands some control over their 
local administration, though the Byzantine government lost 
no time in undermining the moral foundation of the free 
institutions which had defended a single city against many 
bait>arous nations that had made the Roman emperors trem- 
ble^. The inhabitants of Cherson long looked with indifference 
on the favour of the Byzantine emperor, cherished the institu- 
tions of Hellas, and boasted of their self-government^. A 
thousand years after the rest of the Greek nation was sunk in 
irremediable slavery, Cherson remained free. Such a phe- 
nomenon as the existence of manly feeling in one city, when 
mankind everywhere else slept contented in a state of political 
degradation, deserves attentive consideration. Indeed, we may 
be better able to appreciate correctly the political causes that 
corrupted the Greeks in the Eastern Empire, if we can ascer- 
tain those which enabled Cherson, though surrounded by 
powerful enemies and barbarous nations, to preserve 

*A Homer's language munnuring in her streets^ 
And in her haven many a mast from Tyre.* 

The history of mankind in every age shows us that the 
material improvement of the people, the first great public 
works of utility, and the extension of commerce and trade, 
are effected by the impulsion of local institutions. Such pro- 
gress is the expression of the popular feeling that excites 
every man to better his own condition, and causes him, in 
so doing, to better the condition of the society in which he 
lives. Order, unfortunately, too often expresses only the 
feelings of the class possessing wealth. Its necessity may 
be felt by all, but the problem of connecting it with equity, 
and making it dependent on justice, is not easily solved, and 
hence the pretext of its maintenance serves for the creation of 

iv. 85) mentions its importance, and its attachment to Greek manners and customs. 
Strabo, vii.' p. 308 ; Scylax, 29. 

* Constantine Porphyrogenitus is very particular in explaining the measures to 
be adopted in case of insurrections in Cherson. He shows it was in possession of 
a numerous commercial navy, though it imported wheat, wine, and other neces- 
saries. De Adm. Imp. 53. 

* There is a very late testimony to these facts in a fragment published by Hase, 
in his notes to Leo Diaconus, p. 503, edit. Bonn— a^vir^/ioir 8i /«i\i<rro (py^ft^ 

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irresponsible power. The government in which the family and 
the parish occupy the most important part will ever be the 
best, for it will secure to honesty and truth that deference 
which a more extended circle attempts to transfer to the con- 
ventional virtues of honour and politeness. It is in the family 
and the parish that the foundation of all virtue is laid, long 
before the citizen enters the camp, the senate, or the court 
The twelve nomes of Egypt doubled the extent and wealth of 
the country by digging the canal of Joseph, and forming the 
lake Moeris, before the Pharaohs became conquerors and 
builders of pyramids. The energy of municipal institutions 
filled the Mediterranean and the Euxine with Greek colonies. 
Rome rose to greatness as a municipality; centralization 
arrested her progress and depopulated the world. Great Bri- 
tain, with her colonies and Indian empire, affords an instance 
of the superiority of the individual patriotism and self-respect 
generated by local institutions over the strict obedience and 
scientific power conferred by the centralization of authority. 
But the respective merits of self-government and of central 
government are in the course of receiving their fullest de- 
velopment under the two mighty empires of the United States 
of America and of Russia. Both these governments have dis- 
played consummate ability in the conduct of their respective 
political systems, and the practical decision of the problem, 
whether local or central government is the basis of the political 
institutions best adapted to the improvement of man, as a 
moral and social being, seems by Providence to have been 
intrusted to the cabinet of the emperor of Russia and to the 
people of the United States of America. 

In the reign of Diocletian, while Themistos was president of 
Cherson^ Sauromatos the Bosporian^ passing along the 
eastern shores of the Euxine, invaded the Roman empire. 

■ Constantine Porphyrogenitus calls this chief Sauromatos the Bosporian the 
son of Kriskon-Oros, which, it has been conjectured, ought to be read Kriskoo 
the son of Oros, a Sarmatian of Bosporos. Sauromates is a name common to 
several kings of Bosporos ; but Sauromatos, which Constantine Porphyrogenitus 
gives to the three chiefs he mentions, is not found elsewhere, and he never calls 
Uiem kings. The coins of Bosporos give the. names of other kings about this 
period. The text of Constantine is so inexact, both from his own errors in history, 
and from the inaccuracy of transcribers, that I prefer giving the names as thev 
stand, and leaving the miperial writer to answer for himself. I have changra 
Constans to Constantius Chlorus. See Koehne, Beitrage zur Qesckicku uad Arekt^" 
clogU von Chtrrowsot in Tauritn^ loo. 

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AJ). 963-976.] 

He overran Lazia and Pontus without difficulty, but on the 
banks of the Halys he found the Roman army assembled 
under the command of Constantius Chlorus. On hearing of 
this invasion, Diocletian sent ambassadors to invite the people 
of Cherson to attack Bosporos, in order to compel Sauromatos 
to return home. Cherson, holding the rank of an allied city, 
could not avoid conceding that degree of supremacy to the 
Roman emperor which a small state is compelled to yield to 
a powerful protector, and the invitation was received as a 
command. Chrestos succeeded Themistos in the presidency; 
he sent an army against Bosporos, and took the city. But 
the Chersonites, though brave warriors, sought peace, not con- 
quest, and they treated all the inhabitan